Army trains soldiers to operate mine-clearing robot in Afghanistan

Soldiers from U.S. reserve units are receiving training on a robotic system known as the M160 M4 that uses a flail to trip hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan.

The Croatian-built M160 M4 is operated remotely and is used to clear IEDs, unexploded ordnance, and anti-personnel mines. Through their enrollment in the route clearance training program at Fort Bliss, Texas, soldiers in reserve component-forces are learning to maintain and operate the robot before they deploy to Afghanistan where the machine already is saving soldiers' lives, the Army said.

The M160 MV4 employs a rotating shaft with chains attached to disturb the surface of the ground in an attempt to detonate or unearth deadly mines and unexploded ordnance, the Army said. The flailing action establishes a safe path of travel for dismounted troops operating in the area.

Soldiers from the 5th Armored Brigade's "Task Force Rampant," have trained on the robot, as have soldiers training in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan who are with the 321st Engineer Company (Route Clearance), 704th Engineer Company (Route Clearance) and the 402nd Engineer Company (Sapper).

The training program for the M160 M4 robot begins with preventive maintenance checks and services and is followed by a basic driving instruction, the Army said. As part of the basic driving training, soldiers are required to maneuver the system in forward and reverse, and also negotiate left and right turns in a controlled environment.
After that, soldiers are taught methods for employing the M160 M4 robot to reduce obstacles using the flail on a test course that simulates what they would encounter when entering an unclear area.
The key to effective flailing is the ability to employ the M160 MV4 using a variable tool speed, the correct downward pressure and gear, the Army said. Before entering the unclear area, soldiers perform a soil test to check the effectiveness of the settings, and then make adjustments as necessary before proceeding.

The M160 M4 is manufactured by DOK-ING of Zagreb, which is a provider of robotic mine-clearing systems and similar technologies, according to the company's website.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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