Armor: The Bomb Eating Kat


March 30, 2010: The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have had a lot of success with the VMMD (vehicle mounted mine detector). Which is strange as few people have heard of it, and the vehicle looks more like an exotic piece of construction equipment, than a combat vehicle. This odd looking vehicle is designed to survive bombs and mines, and continue looking for them. VMMD is based on (and looks very similar to) the earlier Meerkat. Originally designed to detect landmines on dirt roads, it was made light enough (using special tires) to not set them off while rolling over them. This is excellent for Afghanistan, where dirt roads are the norm (actually, no roads at all is more the norm.)

If the VMMD/Meerkat does set off a mine, or roadside bomb, it is designed to survive the blast. The key to all this is a blast-deflecting V-shaped hull on an open-framed vehicle. Thus there is little resistance to blast, with the shockwave just blowing past the vehicle. The eight ton VMMD has large, wide tires that exert too little ground pressure (and avoid detonating most pressure activated mines). The VMMD has a metal detector and ground penetrating radar system mounted across it's front, and can scan the road for mines while moving at up to 35 kilometers an hour (about 30 feet per second). The VMMD marks the location of the mines, and lets mine clearing vehicles behind it take care of the explosive device. The VMMD used in Iraq and Afghanistan have survived several explosions. Normally, the VMMD has a one man crew, but it can also be operated remotely from a vehicle traveling behind it.

The VMMD is also called the Husky, and it has a heavier engine than the original Meerkat, but otherwise can do everything Meerkat can do, plus tow the heavy Mine Detonation Trailer  (VMMD can pull two of them). These are ballasted with rocks or dirt and have huge tires. They are designed to detonate mines by contact and then be easily repaired. A command vehicle controls the convoy, while a support vehicle follows with spare wheel assemblies and the mechanics to install them.

Other vehicles accompanying the VMMD provide security. The Cougar MRAP goes right behind the VMMD. Close enough to get hit by an explosion, but also close enough to give covering fire if there is an enemy ambush team involved. If the patrol spies an IED, they either call an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team to check it out and destroy it, or handle it themselves. These patrols have their own robot along, and usually take care of the IED themselves. Sometimes a few seconds of heavy (12.7mm) machine-gun fire will determine if the suspected object is an IED. The remote control robot can also be run up to the object, where its camera can give the distant (a hundred meters or so) operator a good look at the suspect object. Most robots have a movable arm that can move aside debris that often covers an IED.

In Iraq, the patrols were very successful, causing the enemy to give up trying to plant IEDs on some routes. The same techniques are being applied in Afghanistan.



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