After decades of strife, occupation, and conflict, Afghanistan has been left pockmarked with an estimated 10 million anti-personnel landmines in its soils. It’s a bad situation. There are mines like the the Soviet PFM-1 “butterfly mine” — especially popular with small children, who mistake it for a toy. But an anti-mine machine from Komatsu is working across the country to help Afghanis literally save life and limb.
Afghanistan is predominantly a mountainous country with only about 20 per cent of its landmass suitable for development. So having that already limited space further reduced by the specter of landmines only slows the country’s economic recovery more — areas that should be developed are no-go zones. And that’s not even considering the economic and cultural cost of landmine-related injury. Between 1999 and 2008, Afghanistan suffered more than 12,000 landmine casualties, the highest rate in the world, according to the Landmine Monitor Report 2009.
On average, 120 people a year lost their lives or their extremities to stray ordnance. And manual demining, while honorable, is too slow to effectively secure Afghani soil.
To combat this scourge, Japanese heavy equipment manufacturer Komatsu has developed the D85EX-15 deminer. This 38-ton machine is built on a 27-tonne D85EX-15 dozer chassis and heavily reinforced with blast armour. To protect the operators, the deminer can be controlled remotely. You have to imagine that’s a popular feature. Crews watch for damage, then replace the parts damaged by sharpnel.
It’s powered by an 244HP, 11L, six-cylinder, turbo-charged engine. The deminer climbs slopes as steep as 30-degree grades, and clears up to 500 square meters of land an hour.
The D85EX-15 uses a rotating front drum that spins 90 digging flails at 200rpm, crushing and detonating anti-personnel mines buried near the ground’s surface. The flails are also extremely handy for clearing brush, allowing the the deminer to till soil and clear land for construction projects. The front-end attachment can be swapped out for the conventional bulldozer gear as well.
The D85EX-15 has been testing in Afghanistan since late 2007. Since 2006, it has also been actively operating in Cambodia as well, removing some of the 16 million anti-personnel mines laid there. Without the steep terrain encountered in Afghanistan, the D85EX-15 can clear a hectare of land every two to three days. It’s a key tool in rebuilding these lands haunted by the history of war. [Fourmilab – Komatsu 1, 2 – Komatsu America – Main Pump – CMAC – RAWA]