Mechanical equipment has been in the inventory of conventional military forces for the purposes of military engineering—including demining—since the Second World War. The integration of mechanical equipment into the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Iraq clearance activities may have therefore seemed a natural evolution from what might be considered ‘conventional’ mine clearance, yet it brought with it a number of issues. First, the absence of any clear doctrine for the use of mechanical equipment in improvised explosive device (IED) clearance generated resistance and criticism from specialist IED clearance companies operating at that time in Iraq. It was argued that mechanical operations were not only at odds with the principles and philosophies of IED disposal (IEDD) then used, but that they were also dangerous. Second, those same companies argued that the use of mechanical equipment would be extremely limited—largely to ‘shifting and dumping’ rubble and other detritus. Finally, it was argued that manual teams were quicker, more flexible, and cheaper. While UNMAS pushed ahead with the integration of mechanical equipment into standard clearance team structures, it did so in a carefully considered way. Analysis and evaluation has shown a clear role for mechanical equipment in IED clearance, albeit with some key factors that must be carefully considered. These include assessments of likely IED types and main charges as well as quantities present, the proximity of people, buildings, and secondary hazards as well as the original ground level and composition. A critical analysis of the most common concerns cited over the use of mechanical equipment in IED clearance provides ample evidence that not only can mechanical IED clearance be conducted safely, but it also offers some key advantages over manual activities.



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