Army upgrades Improvised Explosive Device detection and defeat capabilities
By Dr. Anthony A. Faust and Dr. Scott E. Irvine, Suffield Research Centre, Defence Research and Development Canada
The Canadian Army recently upgraded its premier route search suite, the Expedient Route Opening Capability (EROC), an important force protection asset and hard-worn veteran of Afghanistan combat operations.
Canada’s Defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, commits to long-term investments in the Canadian Armed Forces. Among these commitments are investments to enhance Army capabilities and capacity, including modernizing the fleet of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection and defeat capabilities. The upgrade initiative was sponsored by the Military Engineering Equipment section at Directorate Land Requirements (DLR).
The enhancements include upgrades to EROC’s Husky-mounted Detection System (HMDS), which incorporates a ground penetrating radar (GPR) to detect buried explosives. Canada’s GPR is now being upgraded to the same version used by allied forces in Australia and the United States.
The operation of the Husky vehicle is very challenging and complex. While these new updates improve the probability of detecting threats under a range of atmospheric and ground compositions, they add to the complexity of GPR operators’ tasks.
Recognizing this challenge, defence scientists in Australia and the U.S. committed to an ambitious field data collection campaign to measure GPR system performance.
Scientists from Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) saw an opportunity to combine the allied and Canadian Army efforts. This resulted in a three-part series of Husky-mounted GPR trials.
With participation from the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, the first trial took place between September 15 and October 6, 2017. It was hosted by the EROC Troop in 43 Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) Squadron, 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4ESR), at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown.
“Our role is to provide a nexus between military requirements and science and technology opportunities and solutions,” says Dr. Anthony Faust, Scientific Lead for DRDC’s Explosive Hazard Avoidance activity. “Through close connections with our allies, we leveraged Canadian investment into a much broader international effort that will improve Army capability and preparedness.”
“For this trial series to contribute to the larger allied effort, it was critical to have standardized and well-defined target sets and emplacements,” says Dr. Faust. “Only with a high level of precision can the data be comparable to previous trials, and enable the analysis of environmental effects on GPR performance.”
He added, “The whole team – the Canadian Army, DRDC, the U.S., and U.K. – went to great lengths to ensure the Canadian trial data was as high quality as possible. Participants were on their hands and knees scraping target holes to centimetre accuracy, all in a late-September heat wave that saw temperatures into the 40s. The teamwork was just amazing.”
Speaking for the U.S. team, Major (Retired) Lee Offen added, “We are grateful for the opportunity, not only to collect and share GPR data in a different environment, but to do so cooperatively with our allies. The magnificent support provided by 4ESR and the other tenant organizations at CFB Gagetown are essential to the success of the trials. We look forward to the next phase.”
Major Blaise Lapointe, Officer Commanding 43 Counter-IED Squadron, said “Although there are no silver bullets in the IED fight, EROC has proven to save lives. Members of the squadron are very excited to work hand-in-hand with DLR and DRDC, and to contribute to the next round in EROC.”
The next phase of the trial plan saw more data collection at CFB Gagetown in January and February 2018, contributing the most Canadian of conditions – cold – to this ongoing international GPR data collection campaign.
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