Army combat engineers are looking for new ways to deploy “terrain shaping obstacles” or landmines by artillery, drone or robot ground vehicles for the close, middle and long-range fight.
Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in his Wednesday presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting that the regiment’s no. 1 priority for modernization is terrain shaping.
Better aviation platforms, networks and ground vehicles offer a new breadth and depth to war, but terrain shaping denies the enemy the ability to effectively use their own systems and puts the control of the battlefield tempo into soldiers’ hands, Spellmon said.
Col. Kyle T. Moulton, the assistant commandant of the Engineer School, said that due to the lack of use for the past 20 years, many of the existing systems for emplacing mines and other obstacles are approaching obsolescence.
Two such examples are the 1980s-era Volcano Scatterable Mine System, which has both anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and the GATOR canister munitions, often an air-delivered batch of 72 anti-tank and 22 anti-personnel mines.
The Volcano allows a UH-60 Black Hawk to create a 1,000-foot minefield in less than a minute. Those items are getting service life extension funds to serve as a segue to the next devices.
And the next devices are the Standoff Activated Volcano System and the Common Anti-Vehicle Munition.
Both aim to be more portable, have more delivery method options, use a common munition across platforms and have self reporting features with ways to conduct remote self-deactivation and self-destruct.
Also, the munitions need to be able to be recovered and reused, Moulton said.
The overall objective is to combine a number of devices and methods to create a complex, networked obstacle system.
The current concept under development would include both top attack and bottom attack munitions, which can communicate with their controller, said Col. Russel V. Hoff, project manager for close combat systems.
Top attack munitions are slated to begin prototyping next year through early 2024 with rapid fielding set to begin in 2025, Hoff said.
The bottom attack munitions are headed for prototyping in 2025 and rapid fielding in 2028, Hoff added.
The full network capability is expected to build a prototype in late 2026 and field starting in 2029.
But, Hoff said, it’s not always a kinetic effect. Some of the munition options that they’re looking to use for terrain shaping will include electronic warfare capabilities.
In September, Army Times reported on a suitcase-sized solution for dismounted soldiers to take on tanks.
Soldiers and researchers tested the XM204 interim wide area top attack munition at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in September.
U.S. Army Europe initiated the call for that type of option, Lt. Col. Isaac Cuthbertson, product manager for terrain-shaping obstacles said in a previous Army news release.
The XM204 is an advanced version of the previous XM1100 Scorpion system, which was specifically designed to target and deter tanks or other tracked vehicles.
In 2019, Army Times reported on the Army’s initial push into the area of updating “dumb landmines” with “smart terrain shaping.”
At the time, some of those included plans for the devices to do their own radio frequency signal jamming, which helps prevent adversaries from using RF to locate or detonate communications-enabled devices.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.