UV Europe 2011: Unmanned Snatch a work in progress
More work is required to fine tune 'Operation Panama', the UK Ministry of Defence's unmanned Snatch Land Rover solution for the Talisman route-clearing capability, according to a senior British Army officer.
Speaking at the UV Europe conference in Brussels, Maj Thomas Donohoe, HQ 29 EOD and Search Group, confirmed the system was now deployed in Afghanistan although he conceded that there were a 'number of issues'.
'We are not 100 per cent clear on its capability,' he said. 'There is more work to be done but at least we are in the right ball park to get a mounted system to detect [IEDs] and prevent my soldiers dismounting.'
Comprising approximately a dozen unmanned Snatch Land Rovers and undisclosed sensor suites and data links, the vehicles are now working in conjunction with other manned land platforms.
Sources said a single system, consisting of two Snatch UGVs and ground control station, were working in each of the six Talisman teams which already comprise two Buffalo Rummage and four Mastiff 'Protected Eyes' vehicles; two micro unmanned air vehicles (MUAV); two HMEEs; and two Talon UGVs. It is understood that the MoD has a total of six Talisman teams in operation as part of a £260m programme. Donohoe said the Land Rovers were being towed behind a Buffalo Rummage platform.
Op Panama vehicles are designed to replace dismounted search parties, which according to Donohoe, could cover as little as 500 metres in two hours in particularly high risk areas.
Donohoe was describing Talisman operations during Operation Herrick 12 in 2010 which included defeating devices, force protection and mentoring of Afghan National Security Forces.
Conducting 40 separate tasks over the six-month tour, Donohoe said missions spanned Talisman's 'entire array of CONOPS [concept of operations]' and explained how Viking all-terrain vehicles were used to secure the high ground, allowing Talisman troops to move through an area of operations followed by the combat logistics patrol a 'tactical bound' behind. The latter, he said, could comprise anything up to 15km.
Utilised for both defensive and offensive operations, such as ensuring safe passage for coalition forces conducting strike operations as well as 'shaping the battlefield', Donohoe described how his Talisman troop conducted tasks throughout the whole of Helmand province from Camp Bastion.
'Terrain, threat and going vary significantly across the area of operations and in the South there was more restrictive terrain and it was difficult to avoid any vulnerable points,' he explained.
'Most enemy actions were identifiable', Donohoe continued whilst describing ground sign associated with IEDs. 'Through training, our search advisors identified potential IEDs in the ground and if possible we would avoid it and if necessary do something about it. Lessons were learned and hits were taken.'
Sub-systems carried as part of the Talisman troop also performed well, he said, with the Talon UGV providing the clearance capability: 'It is because of this [UGV] that we were able to conduct our mission. It was the mechanical means [to deliver] whatever weapon system we required and similar to tactics used in Northern Ireland,' he continued although he was unable to provide more details on existing TTPs.
During Op Herrick 12, Donohoe's Talisman team lost a single MUAV during the tour although he described it as a 'very noisy, capable beast'.
'We would send it ahead of search teams to suspected or known vulnerable points to cue assets or call in others to provide better eyes on. When it went up, the atmospherics in the area changed immensely and we could get down to within two feet of suspect devices,' he said. However, Donohoe conceded that the air vehicle did suffer from a low wind threshold.
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