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Goodbye To Bangalore
by James Dunnigan
October 12, 2011

Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Army began replacing the century old Bangalore Torpedo mine clearing system with a lighter and more effective device, and it has become a crucial bit of equipment in the face of growing Taliban use of landmines. The APOBS (Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System) system first appeared in 2002, after eight years of development. Weighing only 57 kg (126 pounds), compared to the older Bangalore Torpedo (205 kg/451 pounds), the APOBS could be carried by two men, as opposed to the older system that required ten or more. APOBS can be set up in under two minutes. It uses a rocket system that carries a cable with explosives attached. The explosion clears (mines and bombs) from a 45 meter (106 foot) long and one meter (3 feet) wide path.

Britain has a similar system, called Python, but it is not light enough to be carried by troops (important in many combat situations.) Britain used Python for the first time last year, in Afghanistan. Python uses a rocket that carries an explosives filled, 228 meter (700 foot) tube filled with 1.4 tons of explosives. When the tube lands, the explosives go off, destroying over 90 percent of mines, or other explosive devices, in an area 180 meters (558 feet) long and 7 meters (22 feet) wide. The cleared area has to be double checked for mines or devices that survived Python, but this can be done quickly, and troops and vehicles can rush through the cleared lane if they are under fire.

The Python is basically an update of a similar system developed in the 1950s (Giant Viper). The U.S. has a similar system (the Mk 154 Mine Clearance System), which uses rockets to propel a cable (stuffed with explosives) down a road. The explosives are detonated, and all mines, and road side bombs, are detonated or disabled over an area of 14 by 100 meters. The Mk 154 was originally designed to quickly clear mines during combat. But it turns out to work against booby traps and roadside bombs as well.

All these systems were developed from the bangalore torpedo. This system used explosives filled tubes that had to be pushed into position. The original bangalore torpedo was developed before World War I, for quickly clearing booby traps. A few years later, it was found very capable for clearing barbed wire barriers during World War I, and continued to be widely used during World War II.

APOBS received an upgrade in 2006 (Mod 2). Each APOBS system costs about $52,000. The army and marines have ordered over 10,000, and used most of those in combat and training.



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