New hi-tech countermine system safer, faster (Lead)

June 23rd, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sahil Makkar
Paris, June 23 (IANS) A new hi-tech countermine system developed by French defence major MBDA is not only safer but can clear larger areas faster than with what is currently available, company officials say. Souvim 2, based on a combination of mine decoying subsystems, can clear up to 150 km of minefields in a day and afford greater safety to the personnel engaged in the task, the officials say.

“It is designed for clearing all types of mines to permit fast movement of convoys. It can also be deployed for creating safe routes for evacuation of civilians,” Patrick de La Reveliere, MBDA vice president for exports, told a group of visiting Indian journalists.

The system has been designed to meet future threats and keeping in mind the needs of French Army personnel serving with the NATO forces in Afghanistan, Reveliere added.

A land mine can be triggered in a variety of ways including pressure, movement, sound, magnetism and vibration. Anti-personnel mines rely on foot pressure as a trigger, but trip wires are also frequently employed.

Recent experiences of regional conflicts have shown that proliferation of mines not only hinders the advance of troops but also presents a long-term hazard to civilians in the aftermath of a conflict.

Estimates suggest that 80 million land mines are still buried worldwide while 54 countries have stock piled approximately 180 million anti-personnel mines. The worst affected countries are Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia.

The placing and arming of land mines is relatively inexpensive and simple, but the process of detecting and removing them is expensive, slow, and dangerous. The problem gets compounded during irregular warfare when mines are used on an ad hoc basis and in unmarked areas.

Explaining the functioning of Souvim 2, Reveliere said it comprises two vehicles and three trailers.

The first vehicle, called a VDM, accommodates a package composed of mechanical decoys for trip wire and tilt rod mines, standoff IR decoys and magnetic decoys.

With its specially designed low-pressure tyres, the VDM is immune to pressure sensitive mines, which are instead detonated by a towed trailer, thereby clearing a path for the second vehicle, called a VTR.

The VTR tows two additional trailers to tackle any residual un-detonated mines to create a safe track up to a width of 3.9 metres.

The system also incorporates Dedale, a magnetic device that activates any magnetically fused anti-tank mine at a safe distance from the carrying vehicle.

“To ensure that all magnetic mines can be cleared, decoy magnetic signatures are pre-programmed into the Dedale during mission planning. It is the only system currently available with the pre-programmed facility.

“The French Army ordered the Souvim 2 at the beginning of 2008 and it would enter into service in 2010,” said Loic Piedevache, MBDA’s India representative.

“MBDA is also involved in a Franco-German cooperative technical demonstration programme that will see the experience gained from developing Souvim 2 used to create an advanced mine clearing system,” Piedevache said.

“The MMSR Sydera demonstrator would show how a single system can create not only a mine-free path but also make safe a larger area of territory such as an airfield,” he added.

MMSR Sydera is composed of five vehicles - a command and control vehicle (CCV), a Detection Vehicle (DEV), a Smart Decoy Vehicle (SDV) to detonate non-pressure sensitive mines, a Heavy Decoy Vehicle (HDV) to clear pressure sensitive mines, and a Verification Vehicle (VEV) to clear any residual mines that remain.

MBDA has been selling Milan missiles to India since 1980. The company registers a turnover of three billion euros annually.

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