Ukrainian Minefield Damage
Minefields in the Ukrainian war (2022-2024) have proved a formidable issue for existing mine-breaching vehicles

Why have all the current best minefield breaching vehicles failed so badly when trying to breach minefields?

Recent events have shown that the increasing use of multi-layer, multi-threat minefields pose a real threat to minefield breaching operations. This is mainly due to the vulnerability of the vehicles to which the mine clearance devices are attached. Invariably they are based on existing tank or armoured vehicle designs, which as single vehicles with a body and all the motive and control elements contained inside a standard vehicle shell plus crew space (even if converted to an autonomous vehicle) they are vulnerable to a single hit from an AT missile, mine or RPG warhead delivered by a drone.

ABBS has therefore taken a radical approach to the vehicle concept, using a simple comparatively lightweight (approx. 40tons) design based on twin, heavily protected V-hulls joined by a central spaceframe.

Key design features:

1. Minimum Enclosed Volume and Weight

All the critical power, sensor, and control elements of the vehicle which require maximum protection levels are contained within the relatively small, heavily protected V-hulls which run the full length of the main vehicle body. These mainly house the quadruple redundant battery packs and carry the main vehicle wheel sets. The plan area of the structure and wheels is considerably less than the overall footprint of the vehicle, providing the minimum possible target area for direct fire threats. The simple central spaceframe design also greatly reduces weight compared to a fully-enclosed vehicle.

2. Multi-wheeled Drive Train

The use of multiple wheel stations on each pod, each with twin wheels, all independently driven by hydraulic or electric motors in the hubs, maximises traction and the ability to sustain multiple mine strikes.

3. Power Source and Distribution System

Batteries are the primary power source (with remote charging, or hybrid with on-board generator). Prime power from on-board batteries reduces demand for hydro-carbon fuels, whilst solar photo-voltaic panels on top of the V-pods provide stand-by, continuous re-charging. Pure electric or electrohydraulic drive can be virtually silent in operation, with no engine-exhaust heat signature. The quadruple battery packs will be cross-connected to both V-hulls and sized so that any single battery pack can sustain full vehicle function.

4. Autonomous or Remote Control

Autonomous on-board guidance and control for following a preset route with alternative remote-operated, UGV architecture, linking on-board sensors and controls to a remote operator.

5. Multiple Twin MICLIC Line Charge Units

The system from the M1150 could be added if required. At least 6 line units could be fitted to enable sequential use, providing up to 600m of partially cleared ground in front of the vehicle, or 300m if twin lines are used to at each launch station to provide more complete clearance.

6. Relatively Low Vehicle Unit Cost:

Unit cost is estimated at approximately £1.0m per vehicle, or probably about £2m if a 6-line MICLIC system is specified, compared to $3.7m for an M1150. This much reduced cost allows deployments of more vehicles, supporting simultaneous minefield breaching in more locations, enabling an advance using multiple routes with reduced concentration (and reduced vulnerability) of follow-on vehicles

7. Logistics Burden

The logistics requirement is low due to being battery-powered, although hybrid power is clearly another option to the use of solar cells on the vehicle for keeping the main batteries fully charged.

8. Inherent Mine Resistance of the Design

The combination of the twin V-hulls and central spaceframe minimises the impulse transfer to the vehicle so that Global Acceleration (the vehicle being thrown into the air) is not a problem and the very robust V-hulls are not susceptible to penetration or significant deformation. Hence while individual wheels on the main vehicle will be blown off by direct contact with a mine the vehicle structure remains essentially un-damaged and capable of continued function due to the multiple redundancy built into the extremely robust and well-protected design.

9. Inherent Survivability Against AT Missile and RPG Threats

The open architecture used means that AT missiles and RPGs will likely  pass through the spaceframe structure.  In the event of a hit, the shaped charge will not do any significant damage. The system design will also address the potential impact of a fly-over/shoot down missile so that hits on a battery pack do not affect other batteries.

10. Conventional Front Roller System Vulnerability

Current systems using mine rollers susceptible to multi-stacking mines or using a mines placed at a distance from pressure plates.  The concept is designed to address these issues without significant damage and remain fully functional.

11. Obscuration and Control During Breaching Operations

Smoke screens and 10-20mph estimated speed will help to hinder direct fire attacks and leave a fully cleared track behind the vehicle for following vehicles to use.

Lane marker flags can be placed as the vehicle proceeds. The vehicle could be completely autonomous or have back-up manual control.

12. Front Roller System and Reserve Wheel and Weight Counter-Balancing Functions

The front roller system as shown is a critical element of the design as it needs to sustain many mine strikes and continue to function in order to protect the main vehicle wheels as long as possible, although at least half of these could be attritted and the vehicle could still remain fully functional by means of moving the 3ton+ mass rearwards to counteract the loss of front wheels. This system is backed up by reserve wheels at the front which can be lowered into ground contact when required.

There are a number of patented alternatives to the conventional front roller design shown in the concept drawing.

Current State of the Concept

We continue to develop the concept and are in discussion with a number of representatives from the various armed forces as to how such a vehicle can meet the requirements on the battlefield.

We welcome enquiries from partners looking for an innovative approach to minefield breaching so that we can discuss the details further and how the various concepts can be utilised on third party existing vehicles to improve their performance.