Armed With Science

DOD Lab Day Showcases Latest Mine-Killer Technology

April 25, 2019 | BY C. Todd Lopez

During Defense Department Lab Day at the Pentagon, the Army, Marine Corps and Navy all touted autonomous solutions for either finding or killing mines that might put service members in danger.

The Army and the Marine Corps combined existing tools — the Army's old-school M58 mine-clearing line charge and the Marines' modern expeditionary modular autonomous vehicle — to create an autonomous, remotely controlled device that will shoot 350 feet of roped C4 plastic explosive out over a minefield to clear a path for follow-on service members.

An explosion clears a path through a minefield.
Mine Fire
Marines fire an M58 mine clearing line charge during a combined arms breach at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, April 4, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon
VIRIN: 190404-M-PG096-1102C

The technology mashup is only a proof of concept and it's expected to be tested this summer, likely at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.  

Navy Mine-Killer Deployment

The Navy likes to kill mines in the ocean. They've already got a tool to help them locate mines: the MK-18 MOD2 unmanned underwater vehicle. The MK-18 prowls the sea to identify the location of mines and then signals their location to those who will later destroy them.

Civilians hoist a device onto a boat.
Underwater Vehicle
Personnel attach an MK-18 MOD2 unmanned underwater vehicle to a rigid-hull inflatable boat. The MK-18 is a mine-hunting UUV and currently must be deployed manually from a boat. New technology may allow it to be deployed autonomously, which will reduce risk to sailors.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek R. Sanchez
VIRIN: 121017-N-PF210-057C

The only problem with the MK-18 is that it requires sailors in rigid inflatable boats to manually deploy it — and that puts sailors in danger. The newly-developed "Airborne Surface Quad Thruster Underwater Interface Device," or ASQUID, grips on to the MK-18 and is lowered via tether from a hovering MH-60S Seahawk helicopter.  The ASQUID can both deploy the MK-18, and recover it, without having to put sailors on the water. Suspended from a helicopter, ASQUID can deploy the mine-hunting MK-18, even when the seas would be too rough to deploy it via boat.

An unmanned underwater vehicle device is lowered into the water.
Quad Thruster
The Airborne Surface Quad Thruster Interface Device attaches to the side of an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and allows the crew to lower an MK-18 into the water to search for mines.
Photo By: Ashley Conner, Navy
VIRIN: 180901-N-OD451-002