Local mine-clearer making impact

3rd March 2000 By: System Author

South African specialist hi-tech defence company Mechem, part of the State-owned Denel group, is in partnership with BAE Systems of the UK in the competition for the British army’s ‘Minder’ programme.

“If we win, it would be a big contract – the project is to develop a mine-clearing system, but the British requirement is much broader than previous South African requirements,” reveals Mechem GM Dr Vernon Joynt.

“The British have already bought a standard South African mine-clearing system, but it proved unsuitable in the Balkans and they have decided to develop a system for their own needs,” he reports.

Designed for the heat, dryness and bush of Southern Africa, the standard system proved unable to cope with the cold, mud, snow and forests of the Balkans.

Adding to the complexity of the requirement, the British army operates globally, from Canada eastwards to Brunei, and from north Norway to the Falkland islands, and needs a system that can operate in virtually every environment, and in every season. This demanding requirement is reflected in the acquisition process.

“The programme includes a two-year assessment phase to evaluate the proposals of the competing companies,” explains Joynt.

The competing companies will submit their proposals in early April ‘Minder’ stands for mine detection, neutralisation and route-marking system.

Described by experts as “ambitious”, the programme seeks the development of two complementary systems, the Minder RP and the Minder Recce.

The Minder RP will be a mine-protected vehicle carrying a sensor suite to detect both anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, and equipped to neutralise these mines and mark a safe route through the minefield for other vehicles.

The Minder Recce will be a sensor system for mine reconnaissance, which will be designed to be quickly fitted to combat engineer versions of new armoured vehicles now under development for the British army.

A foreign defence publication states that the army requires ten Minder RPs and 50 Minder Recce systems, and the UK Defence Procurement Agency will, in the third quarter of this year, select two companies to proceed to the competitive assessment phase of the programme.

The value of the contracts for this phase is reported as being