Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) represent the greatest threat faced by Australian Defence Force (ADF) and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Approximately 40 percent of Australian troops Killed in Action and over 60 percent of our Wounded in Action over the duration of Operation SLIPPER have been as a direct result of IED attacks.
The ADF response to the IED threat includes thorough training, adaptive tactics, techniques and procedures and other measures focused on mitigating the effects of IED attack and defeating the device prior to detonation. Current route clearance capability relies heavily on combat engineers dismounting to undertake manual search in order to detect and defeat explosive hazard threats.
While dismounted manual search offers an effective and battle proven method of route clearance, it can be time consuming and exposes personnel to significant risk of injury and loss of life.
Systems acquired through Project NINGAUI will significantly enhance the Force Protection levels provided to Australian personnel. It will deliver advanced technology and detection and allow for our Australian troops to maintain operational tempo, preserve tactical freedom of action and offer greater safety to personnel.
Given the current nature of operations and the IED threat faced by Australian soldiers on a daily basis, a dedicated and well designed route clearance system is the Australian Army’s most urgent counter IED capability need. Project NINGAUI responds to this capability need and the associated operational urgency.
Project NINGAUI aims to provide a phased capability and will acquire an Australian Protected Route Clearance Capability (APRCC). The APRCC incorporates both mounted and dismounted practices in the conduct of route clearance missions.
Dismounted tactics, techniques and procedures coupled with mounted detection, interrogation and neutralisation systems, will assist to enhance overall Force Protection levels. The strength of each method – mounted and dismounted – will cover the inherent weakness of the other.
By maintaining dismounted search practices greater emphasis will be placed on protecting vulnerable vehicle platforms. Protection for dismounts will be provided, in turn, by the systems and platforms that provide options to the tactical commander for hazardous detection, interrogation and neutralisation tasks to be conducted by soldiers under armour.
The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France and Italy have developed mounted protected capabilities that are currently being utilised in Afghanistan.
The development of the APRCC has been based upon the operational lessons learned by our coalition partners in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO), and incorporates elements from the American, British and Canadian systems in the Australian solution. Each of the solution systems are battle proven and currently serving in the MEAO with Australia’s coalition partners.
Project NINGAUI aims to provide equipment by the end of 2012 to the MEAO for current operations.
In the interim, Army has loaned elements of two systems of Canadian Expedient Route Opening Capability (EROC) route clearance equipment in order to provide a degree of capability, and to inform the future Project NINGAUI requirements.
Project NINGAUI will provide deployed ADF personnel in the MEAO with significantly improved force protection capability to counter the rapidly evolving IED threat.
The route clearance systems will be used by Australian Army engineers to detect and clear explosive hazards, creating a safer pathway for troops as they patrol Uruzgan province in Afghanistan.
The four systems will cost about $70 million. Each system includes:
• Two HUSKY Mark 3 protected route clearance vehicles with ground penetrating radars (GPR) provide the ability to detect explosive hazards from within an armoured vehicle;
• One HUSKY Mark 3 protected route clearance vehicle with interrogator arm to confirm that an explosive hazard has been found from a safer distance;
• Two protected High Mobility Engineer Excavators (HMEEs) to repair damaged routes and create bypass routes; and
• Two Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles fitted with SPARK mine rollersto provide a greater level of protection against explosive hazards.