One of the greatest dangers associated with landmines, according to de-mining experts in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, is there are few – if any – maps or records about where they are placed, meaning, in many post-conflict theatres, there is no way to turn-off or safely deactivate conventional mines. While international agreements seek to ban the use of landmines and work towards their discovery and removal through various non-proliferation efforts, the reality is that major arms producing nations, such as China, Russia and the US continue to manufacture these “defence on a budget” weapons. Almost as a sign of his perceived invincibility, US President Donald J Trump seemed to celebrate the collapse of his impeachment with an executive order (again) allowing the production and export of landmines from the USA.
Nevertheless, accepting the reality that there will always be a need for defence against heavy military hardware and an effective vehicle access denial solution, there needs to be a re-think about landmines, which is what Forcit Oy did. The Finnish company is the first to re-think how landmines function, strictly following international guidelines and adhering to the foundations of the 1997 Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention – to which Finland is a signatory nation.
The Forcit SENTRY System is a completely new Anti-Tank Mine (ATM) that is programmable, radio-controlled and features an integrated map function, under which it is impossible to lose an ATM. According to Forcit, the SENTRY System consists of the Control Units (CU), Communication Link Units (CLU) and ATMs.
The SENTRY CU is a hand-held tablet with built-in map functions and radio communication which enables the user to control the whole minefield, it has four main functions:
- Minefield Planning, where users are able to plan a minefield with the CU and planning tool, using a highly detailed map, mine placements are based on coordinates and it is also possible to use references from buildings or other objects from the field. Minefield plans can be done in advance and shared over the system to troops before mine deployment.
- Mine Deployment, based on the planned minefield, troops are able to deploy mines in exactly the right position with the help of the “go to place” function. In case of unexpected obstacles or other reasons, troops are able to change the place and register the new position to the system, while they can add in new reference points from their surroundings if necessary.
- Minefield Control, where troops are able to control mines or entire minefields using the CU, the technology for this is based on radio communication and can be performed over several kilometres, depending on the number of CLUs. Activating, deactivating, neutralising, setting active time and checking active time are activities handled over the radio.
- Minefield History, once a mine is deployed and activated to the system, its history will be retained so the user can follow a mine’s status and ensure it is neutralised while the history of removed mines remains in the system.
The SENTRY CLU is an un-jammable, un-hackable, radio link unit, designed to extend the communication range from the CU to the minefield, which is 1-3 km depending on surroundings, though the range can always be extended with additional CLU´s.
The SENTRY ATM is a dual charge mine designed to be effective against a wide range of vehicles, with the charge part built in two sections. The first one to be activated is an EFP for penetrating the vehicle hull and the following one is a bulk charge for giving the shock and pressure effect against the target. In addition to built-in radio communication and sensors, the SENTRY system has extremely good Insensitive Munitions (IM) properties, meaning it is a highly stable mine and will not accidentally “go off” because of extreme environmental conditions.
View from the Top
When asked about the benefits of their Sentry ATM over conventional “mine replacements”, Forcit’s Managing Director Mr Joakim Westerlund clarified: “[from a] safety point of view, a radio controlled minefield has many benefits for both civilians and forces. With our radio controlled and map function-based SENTRY system the benefits are unprecedented and a step change in modern national security and warfare.”
At War and Peace
According to Westerlund, forces can remotely control, deactivate and neutralise individual mines and whole minefields from a single device so the minefield is active only when necessary and because of the secure geo-location functionality of the mines, forces have the overview of the whole minefield and the actual activation status of each mine. The SENTRY System knows the exact position of deployed mines meaning it is easy to find deployed mines for de-mining with the help of coordinates from the map function, making it easy to ensure all mines are removed from a minefield.
Sensors inside the ATM are built to react only to targets it is designed for so all other vehicles, animals, soldiers and civilians will not be detected as a threat. To be lethal, the Sentry ATM needs to be placed, activated and directly engaged by a heavy armoured vehicle – again, noting the whole SENTRY System is built upon the principles of the Ottawa treaty, for which Sentry ATM provides 100 % safe, fast and easy mine removal. The SENTRY system will be available during the second quarter of 2020 with the start of 0-series production.