The German Bundeswher will soon have a new facility for the study and development of new on-board detection and protection technologies against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), according to the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw). Unique in Europe, the “L-IED” will open in 2018 in BAAINBw’s Centre for the Study of Protective Technologies (WTD 52*), in Oberjettenberg, southern Germany.
“Protecting our soldiers is one of our most important missions. With the L-IED hall, we are taking a big step forwards in defence systems against asymmetric threats,” said Harald Stein, president of BAAINBw at the inauguration of the hall on October 12.
BAAINBw’s goal? To test, in a full-scale laboratory, current and future technologies for detecting and protecting against IEDs. The L-IED will allow German engineers and technicians to get closer to the reality of the operational field … but without the risks. They will no longer have to rely on computer simulations or have to wait for feedback from soldiers in order to improve or invent new tools.
L-IED, which cost €6m, offers a unique test environment in a hall 70m long and 25m wide. It contains two zones, subdivided into five different soil types, such as “loess, basalt, humus, sand and gravel,” says BAAINBw. These ‘detection tracks’ are 1.5m deep and 5m wide, making it possible to faithfully reproduce the types of terrain used by vehicles and soldiers in operations.
The nature of the terrain is the result of the variables needed to develop future detection systems. A system with the right sequence of detection for a particular type of soil can be lower performing with a different soil composition. The L-IED will therefore make it possible to determine and analyse these detection sequences and then start the optimisation process.
Currently, most on-board IED detectors rely on a combination metal detector/ground penetrating radar. The first detects the presence of, well, metals, while the second captures changes in the soil structure. To avoid interference with the system, the entire L-IED hall is totally metal-free. In the same way, a soil-integrated irrigation system makes it possible to evaluate the influence of the physical properties of the soil on the detector under laboratory conditions, for example by varying the degree of humidity of the soil.
Opened in 1957, the WTD 52 is the only German research centre in an Alpine environment. It allows the BAAINBw to experiment with new ground technologies subject to the constraints specific to the “third dimension”, i.e. altitude. But the WTD 52 is not only a reference for direct and indirect protection systems, but also became in 2012 the anchor of all German research on “physical detection of IEDs,” says BAAINBw.
* WTD 52: Wehrtechnischen Dienstselle 52, or “Technical Centre for Protective and Special Technologies”.