New Land Mine Detection Tool Called Major Breakthrough

Washington - The U.S. State Department announced August 29 what it calls a major breakthrough in land mine detection and removal technology.

The U.S. Department of Defense has begun to field a hand-held device that combines metal detection with ground-penetrating radar, called a Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS).

What makes the new device so important, according to the announcement, is that HSTAMIDS can screen out the many bits and pieces of metal found in mined areas and on former battlefields that give a "false positive" signal to metal detectors.  International mine action standards require land mine removal personnel to dig up every piece of metal found by their detectors to ensure that no land mine has been missed, the State Department says.  This metallic clutter now can be ignored and not unearthed, saving time and, by discovering land mines faster, many innocent lives.

The new dual system has undergone extensive testing and rigorous evaluation in the United States and elsewhere, the announcement said.  The system was used in humanitarian land mine removal field evaluations and demonstrations in Southeast Asia and Africa in 2004-2005.

Overall, the system was field tested with more than 10,000 mine targets and more than 50,000 pieces of metallic debris in widely varied environmental conditions in nine test arenas around the world.  It was tested by five different humanitarian land mine removal teams from Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Thailand before beginning humanitarian mine action operations, according to the announcement.

Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom were among governments that joined with the United States in the testing effort.  During this particular series of field tests, the newly trained dual-system operators significantly outperformed experienced metal detector operators.  The metal detectors employed in these tests currently are used throughout the mine removal community.

The Defense Department's Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Team has fielded 2,000 new detection systems with the U.S. military since the spring of 2006.  By the year's end, that number should rise to 3,100 systems delivered to the field.  Additionally, the manufacturer is supplying the new system to humanitarian mine removal operations in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Thailand, the announcement states.

The announcement of the new detection system is available on the State Department Web site.  A related fact sheet is also available there.

For more information about the U.S. land mine removal program, see the electronic journal, "Protecting Lives, Restoring Livelihoods: The U.S. Program To Remove Landmines."