An improved counter-mine capability which has gone into action in Afghanistan is already getting rave reviews from front line troops.
The new system with its Vallon VMH3CS detector was brought into service to equip units deploying on Operation HERRICK to deal with the threats posed by mines and other buried ordnance. And the kit is already helping to save lives.
"The quality of the equipment and the levels of assurance it delivers in an environment of rapidly evolving threat means that our squadron has found Vallon to be right up to the requirement," said Major Richard Walker, Officer Commanding 69 Gurkha Field Squadron in Afghanistan.
"There is no doubt that it is slightly more complicated to use than the ebex system it replaces, but we must not forget with its slight increase in complexity there is a step change in capability.
"We have proved it to be very effective on operations – including some finds that may well not have been possible with EBEX [Ebinger EBEX-420PB; the Army's standard mine detector system]. The squadron is now comfortable with the equipment with a huge level of confidence in it."
The equipment is a success story for DE&S' Manoeuvre Support team:
"We have delivered a very good capability, ahead of time and it is saving soldiers' lives while enhancing our freedom of manoeuvre against the Taliban," said Major Greg Blunden, the team's requirements manager. "To me this is what acquisition is all about."
The dismounted counter-mine capability provides Royal Engineer combat engineers, infantry assault pioneers, Royal Armoured Corps assault troopers and Royal Marine assault engineers with the ability to detect minimum metal mines in very challenging soil conditions.
It has been so successful that doctrine has been changed to lead with the new detector, as opposed to the 'prodder', which greatly improves the rate of advance.
The kit is made up of the impressive Vallon detector, improved marking equipment and enhancements to the level of protection for the operator in the event of a mine explosion. There is also a package of training which includes kits for users to keep up skill levels while in their unit.
The equipment was brought into service a year ahead of schedule by the DE&S team, in conjunction with the Director Equipment Capability (Ground Manoeuvre). Deliveries were renegotiated with the contractor – Ultra Electronics Command and Control Systems – to align with Operation HERRICK deployments:
"The Vallon detector we chose was definitely the best available for the job," said Captain Simon Doyle of the Royal Engineers' Trials and Development Unit.
"During trials and training, troops were quick to see the improved performance it offered compared with the old detector. They were also really pleased with the new reactive training mines which will be brought in with the complete system."
Ultra have also been delighted with the project, describing it as 'challenging and rewarding':
"Ultra has worked with more than 20 suppliers, the end users and DE&S to form a truly integrated team," said spokesman Frank Hope. "This has enabled us to combine the best of commercial off-the-shelf components with custom equipment to provide a system capability.
"Feedback from the front line has confirmed the system meets the users' requirements in the challenging environment in which UK troops work."
The DE&S team has been chosen for a Chief of Defence Materiel's commendation for the system's early delivery.
New Kit Helps British Troops Take Out Enemy Mines