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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Clearing mines - a better way

Clearing mines and other ordinance left on the world's fields of battle is dangerous and expensive and is taking far too long for the farmers who want to get back on their land and farm in safety. Doing it by hand as is done at present is so slow that it will never be finished. I don't know if it is true but I have read that some first world war battle fields are still being cleared. All the unexploded ordinance and especially the mines are exerting a huge toll in life and limb amongst the innocents who didn't want the war in the first place. Why can't we mechanize mine clearing.

Start with a main battle tank such as the British Centurion, Israeli Merhava or Soviet T series tank. Strip it of the turret and gun and every bit of equipment that was necessary for battle. With the reduced weight we now have lots of spare power available. Weld on a cupola where the turret was located that can withstand the shrapnel from an exploding tank mine and equip it with the standard prism system so that the driver can drive in safety from within the tank.

Connect a realy grunty hydraulic motor to the main engine. Now we are ready to start.

Build a cylinder with teeth/ scoops which is a little longer than the width of the tank and suspend it on arms coming from the sides of the tank. The arms raise and lower the cylinder hydraulically to control the depth of cut. The cylinder is situated in front of the tank and rotates with the forward side moving upwards. A hydraulic motor rotates the cylinder at, say, about 60 revolutions per minute. The cylinder is robust enough to take the explosion of a tank mine. Remember, the mine is no longer tamped and its force can blow upwards and outwards. The cylinder scoops up the top, say, 50cm of soil and pushes it backwards over the top of the cylinder, dropping it into a vibrating grid made of really grunty steel bars. The mesh size is such that it catches tank mines. anti-personell mines and cluster munition. The grid has an orbital vibration so that anything caught is bounced off to one side and dropped in a windrow beside the tank. Anything surviving this rough treatment is exploded by a sapper.

Below this grid is a second grid of finer mesh that catches anything down to a M16 bullet. This material is also conveyed to the same side of the tank and sieved out material is dropped in the same windrow. The soil falls between the tank tracks.

Any valuables including brass go to the owners of the fields. They deserve some recompense for what they have suffered.

The driving compartment is air conditioned. Most of the battle areas of the world are tropical and the driver must be comfortable to be able to operated for many hours a day. Make the driving space like a modern agricultural tractor.

While we are at it, lets analyze the soil and if it needs something like lime or some nutrient to make it fertile lets add it to the discharging soil. Attach a couple of hoppers to the back of the tank and a metering system to add whatever is necessary to the soil. Once again, the farmers deserve something extra for their long suffering.

A grader attached to the mine clearing crew finishes off the cleared field

All finished areas are, of course, entered in a GIS map using GPS technology so in years to come, it is clear which areas have been cleared. Start with the most arable land so that the farmers can get on with their lives.

Surely the engineers that came up with battle tanks with all their sophistication could come up with a machine to clear mines rapidly and effectively. How great would it be if one of the engines of destruction, the main battle tank, was the platform on which they built such a system.