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Ukrainian engineers revamp excavator into novel mine-clearing machine

Image: First City TV channel Kryvyi Rih

In the central-Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, a group of engineers has developed a new machine to clear landmines using American technology. According to the First City Channel Kryvyi Rih, the machine was designed to be significantly cheaper than specialized alternatives, while still being effective. The machine is currently undergoing testing and certification and could soon be put into serial production.

The head designer and developer of the machine, Vitalii, said, “We were given an excavator by a local enterprise, and we designed all the necessary equipment. Now an institute is preparing test methods as soon as possible so that we can obtain a certificate for the machine and provide it to the State Emergency Service to demine our fields.”

The machine can clear fields using special hammers on chains, which rotate at high speed and hit the ground. To protect the driver from mine explosions, the machine includes a shield, and the hammers hit the ground about 2 meters away from it. The operator’s cab is also equipped with additional armor and special cameras for video surveillance to compensate for limited visibility.

The machine has already undergone field testing without ammunition, but on April 13, in collaboration with pyrotechnics, it was tested under combat conditions. The machine successfully neutralized two anti-tank mines that were specially buried at a remote location.

If the machine passes its certification and testing, it will be put into serial production and provided to the State Emergency Service to demine areas in Ukraine.

Mine contamination in Ukraine

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Ukrainian national authorities report that they have already located, recorded, and removed over 305,000 mines and explosive devices. However, this number is only a small fraction of the total contamination.

According to recent estimates, up to 30% of Ukraine’s territory is contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnance, amounting to around 80,000 square kilometers of the country’s territory. This contamination has made daily life difficult for Ukrainians, as red warning signs bearing skulls and crossbones litter the fields and forests of the country.

The Ukrainian government has made demining a top priority. However, given the scale of contamination, demining would take up to 70 years with the resources available to Ukraine.

Clearing this explosive contamination is crucial for Ukraine’s recovery and has become an essential aspect of the country’s rebuilding process. The Ukrainian government has highlighted the importance of demining Ukraine, with Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs stating that “the clearance of mines and explosive remnants of war is a pre-requisite for the recovery of the country.”

On 19 April 2023, Ukraine and the United Nations launched a pilot project to test global mine detection technologies. The project aims to attract international companies to help Ukraine in its demining efforts. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is also involved in the process of demining Ukraine.

As well, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES) has developed a mobile application called “Mines” to create an information and communication platform between SES and citizens. The app provides information on minefields and other explosive devices in different regions of Ukraine, allowing people to take appropriate measures to stay safe.

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