With over 100 million mines continuing to threaten the lives of people in over 78 countries, mine action still has a long road ahead. GCS upholds the UN International Day for Mine Awareness and continues to remove landmines, improvised devices, cluster munitions and unexploded bombs all over the world. Whether in Libya, Chad, Iraq or Colombia, our experts make a difference every day. This week, our team is in Croatia, putting our leading-edge GCS mechanical demining solutions to the test.
Every year, tens of thousands of civilians are killed or maimed by landmines and unexploded bombs worldwide. These indiscriminate hazards can remain in the ground, undetonated, for decades after hostilities have ceased, wreaking damage and hindering people from accessing their homes, limiting their movements, and preventing the land from being utilised. The UN declared that the 4th April should be observed each year as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action to raise awareness of the ongoing threat posed by landmines. As GCS CEO Philipp von Michaelis says, "communities in conflict-stricken countries are affected by remnants of war 365 days a year: we have this one day to make the rest of the world aware of this fact."
Technological solutions are critical
With over 30 years of experience, our GCS Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts are working daily to remove explosive remnants of war in countries around the world. Alongside the provision of expert consultancy to militaries, law enforcement and international organisations, as well as a wide range of services such as Counter-IED training programs, GCS also produces state-of-the-art mechanical solutions. Our mechanical demining platforms deliver significant advantages over manual clearance - not only can more land be cleared, but the toll on human life is greatly reduced, as the process of manual demining is extremely dangerous. "Stabilization and reconstruction efforts in conflict-stricken countries require experts applying the latest methodologies and proven technologies to create safe environments," adds von Michaelis.
The GCS-200 creates ‘Safe Ground’
In commemoration of this year’s Mine Awareness Day theme ‘Safe Ground’, GCS had the opportunity to test and demonstrate the maximum survivability of one of its remote-controlled tracked vehicles, the GCS-200. The testing took place at the Croatian Mine Action Centre – Centre for Testing, Development and Training (CROMAC-CTDT), where the GCS-200 faced several live mine test scenarios - 3 Anti-Tank (AT) and 19 Anti-Personnel (AP) blast and fragmentation mines, with some mines activated by pressure and others by tripwire or tilt rod. Performance tests were also carried out in different topology scenarios, e.g., sand, gravel, topsoil, as well as a vegetation clearance test. The GCS-200 effectively neutralised all of the mines in its path, with the help of the T-200 Tiller Attachment. There was minimal damage to the attachment from the blast and the successful result will lead to the accreditation certificate for GCS from CROMAC-CTDT.
Our highly-skilled technician Chris Thompson was the operator of the GCS-200 during the tests. Chris has extensive on-the-ground experience in operating the machine, having most recently returned from Chad where he accompanied the GCS-200 on an arduous overland transport mission in the Sahara. Chris conducted a 4-week operator training program to the local staff of the NGO Humanity and Inclusion (HI - formally Handicap International). HI has been using the GCS-200 since February of this year, in order to speed up the demining process of creating ‘Safe Ground’ on 1.5 million square metres of land still estimated to be contaminated in the north of the country.
The road ahead
Mine action saves lives, facilitaties the return to school of children and the return of safe land to farmers. It promotes economic and social development and makes it possible for citizens to live without the fear of these silent killers. Yet, mine action has a long way to go to tackle the fatal legacy of decades of prolonged conflicts. As von Michaelis says, "legacy minefields, as well as Improvised Explosive Devices from recent conflicts present enormous challenges to local communities and to the organisations tasked to neutralise these threats. It requires well-trained experts using suitable and tested technologies to render operations safe and cost-efficient".