Recent technological advances have enabled the Army to protect its most valuable asset, the lives of its soldiers.
The M1 Abrams Panther II is a 43-ton remote-controlled vehicle designed to help clear minefields. A specially modified M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank stripped of its turret and installed with Omnitech’s standardized tele-operation system and mine rollers allows this vehicle to mine-proof and clear hazardous area.
The vehicle is also equipped with a magnetic “dog bone,” which is designed to set off magnetic mines and tilt rods.
During a recent media day, the 9th Engineer Battalion demonstrated how the remote controlled Panther II clears a 50,000 square-foot minefield in one hour.
The Panther can be driven manually with two soldiers operating the vehicle as driver and tank commander. The driver sits in the traditional tank driver position, the tank commander, who guides the driver, sits inside the crew compartment, which originally housed the turret.
The Panther, used by the 9th Engineer Battalion, was operated both manually and by remote, making multiple passes on the simulated mine field.
“Usually it will make one pass, turn around and overlap the same pass by maybe about four inches,” said 2nd Lt. David C. McKelvin, platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 9th Engineer Battalion. “The first pass doesn’t always get the entire area. You’re always making multiple passes.”
According to the Web site www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/panther.htm, the system was developed and built in response to a need for an improved route proofing system in Bosnia. Now, nearly 60 vehicles are equipped with standardized tele-operation system kits for unmanned operation, including tanks, tractors, high-mobility multipurpose-wheeled vehicles, Skytrak forklift, all-terrain vehicles, and trucks.
Previously deployed to Bosnia, Capt. Christopher T. Simpson, commander of Bravo Company, 9th Engineer Battalion, knows firsthand the Panthers effectiveness. “The Panthers are more successful here because the terrain is flat; it’s ideal for the desert environment,” said Simpson.
The 9th Engineer Battalion has the only operational Panther with robotics in Iraq. Boasting two of the six Panthers that the army owns, the 9th engineers uses them to clear ammo supply points left by the former regime.
“It’s a great piece of equipment that clears a large area and allows another option besides using engineers with mine detectors and probes,” said McKelvin.