WASHINGTON -- The US Army is dusting off mine dispenser systems it originally used in the 1990s because it sees an important role for them against near-peer adversaries now and in the future.
The Volcano system can turn a vehicle or a helicopter into something like a Pez dispenser for mines. Volcano was used prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has laid relatively dormant during the last 15 years of war in the Middle East because the Army did not see a role for it there.
But the systems didn't go away entirely. A 2012 video posted to YouTube shows the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade stationed at Seoul Air Base in South Korea training and qualifying to use the air Volcano mine system. Volcano was deployed there to serve as a deterrent to North Korean advances, allowing a large amount of land mines to be dispersed quickly.
Now, according to the service's Training and Doctrine Command's Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), the Army plans to resurrect Volcano as a key capability within Cross Domain Fires, one of its top six modernization priorities.
In slides presented at ARCIC's Capabilities Information Exchange with industry, which took place at Fort Eustis, Virginia, last week, the service laid out solid modernization objectives and the resources needed to meet capabilities in the near-, mid-, and far-term.
The presentation shows the Army will restore Volcano dispensers to fully mission capable status starting in 2018. At the same time, the service will support a US Army Europe Joint Emergent Operational Needs request for "hand emplaced" Volcanos called "SAVO" -- which is also the name of a real volcanic island located near Guadalcanal.
"The Volcano mine system is quickly becoming a critical component of the Army’s current terrain shaping ensembles as TRADOC continues to assist in the modernization and development of key capabilities that will be necessary to maintain overmatch against near-peer adversaries," Maj. Thomas Campbell, a TRADOC spokesman, told Defense News.
While Volcano was originally intended to provide obstacles, it will now be used to "develop engagement areas," Campbell said
, which means using the mines to guide the enemy into certain terrain and away from other areas, and also to set up perimeter defenses.
The Army will have to refurbish
current Volcano systems
and refurbish and
to modernize them, particularly in accordance with policies governing the use of mine systems -- the Ottawa Treaty.
The Volcano system is also not "appropriate" or certified for the vehicles currently in the Brigade Engineer Battalion’s inventory, Campbell added. Part of the modernization efforts will include modifying the system to be compatible with those vehicles.
In addition, the Army will
reconsider how many Volcano systems will be needed to meet the expanded application of the system, Campbell said.
Also starting in 2018, the Army plans to field its Spider 1A system -- a strange-looking contraption it tried out at its Network Integration Evaluation last spring. Spider is a munition system that is not a mine, nor is it victim-activated. The design uses a man-in-the-loop setup at a remote control station that monitors Spider and is tied to every munition system in the field. It has been primarily used for perimeter defense and offensive capabilities during ambushes.
By 2022, the Spider system will have an improved control station, according to ARCIC’s slides.
From 2023 through 2027, the Army will acquire terrain shaping obstacles and will field an Ottawa-compliant Gator Landmine Replacement, which is a networked munition system in development that will help deny enemy access and use non-lethal means to keep civilians away from dangerous areas.
Campbell noted the future family of terrain shaping obstacles "aims to place ‘man-in-the-loop’ technology in a common munition that can be delivered in a variety of methods to meet the ground commander’s intent and provide maximum flexibility as operational requirements evolve."
Down the road, between the years 2028 and 2050, in addition to fielding terrain shaping obstacles, the Army will also bring close- and mid-range Family of Scatterable Mines (FASCAM) before Volcano, the Modular Pack Mine System (MOPMS) and the Area Denial Artillery Munition/Remote Anti-Armor Munition (ADAM/RAAM) systems reach the end of their shelf lives.
In anticipation of the work the Army will do to modernize cross domain fires capabilities, the service stood up a new product management office, the Product Manager Gator LandMine Replacement (PdM GLMR) in 2016 under the Program Executive Office Ammunition’s Project Manager Close Combat Systems (PM CCS) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, according to the Army.
At the same time, the Product Manager Area Denial office was deactivated and its programs now fall under PdM GLMR. Munitions that will transfer include the Claymore, Modular Pack Mine System, Pursuit Deterrent Munition, Selectable Lightweight Attack Munition and Volcano. Spider will also fall under PdM GLMR.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.