2008: One of the unrecognized lifesavers
in Iraq and Afghanistan is a simple adaptation of an old method of avoiding
anti-vehicle mines. That would be the rollers (heavy barrels that are rigged to
run in front of a tank or combat engineer vehicle, and set off such
mines). The rollers are heavy enough to
simulate the weight of a vehicle. The innovation here was to design a roller set
(SPARK, for Self-Protection Adaptive Roller Kit), that could be pushed by a
truck or, these days, an MRAP (heavily armored trucks). Over 300 SPARK systems
were sent to Iraq, where they detonated over 70 anti-vehicle mines (and
"proofed" thousands of kilometers of road, verifying that the routes were mine
free.) All this saved hundreds of American lives, which means a lot when you
consider that only 4,100 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, about half of
them on the roads (mostly from IEDs).
customized (for local conditions) version of SPARK has been designed for
Afghanistan as well.