MAY 17, 2017, HOHENFELS, Germany – As simulated battles rage throughout the wooded hills of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center during exercise Saber Junction 17, few Soldiers notice the curious structure consisting of four waist high tubes attached to a large plate pointing in various directions resting in a field.
The tubes are part of the Spider Activated Volcano Obstacle (SAVO), a capability in minefield technology. These units consist of four tubes containing six anti-vehicle mines each. When activated from a remote control, each SAVO unit dispenses mines that cover an 80-meter area, creating a dense minefield almost instantly. Such a minefield is a perfect obstacle to be used in an exercise focused on mobility like Saber Junction 17.
At JMRC, the multinational exercises conducted in the heart of Europe provide a perfect training lab for units and agencies to test new systems and operational procedures within a dynamic and realistic modern combat scenario. For this exercise, the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command was able to take advantage of this opportunity to test the SAVO under operational conditions with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
“We can set this whole thing up in about an hour, with two to four of the SAVO units, wherever we think the enemy will come,” said PFC Samuel McCall, Combat Engineer with A Troop, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “The remote control unit can set it off up to 500 meters away, much farther if we add the signal repeater sets we have.”
The SAVO units can be transported in various manners, including in the back of armored vehicles or trailers.
“You can deploy them quickly and recover them if you don’t use them,” said Maj. Michael McDevitt, Senior Planning Engineer with RDECOM, Detachment 8. “The time savings and recoverability aspects of this system are some of the highlights of this emplacement concept.”
Several safety features are incorporated into the SAVO system.
The SAVO units will be designed to stay in place prior to launching mines from the canisters for up to 1 year. During this time they are fully recoverable and reusable. Once the operator launches the mines, the deployed mines have a pre-set lifespan after which they will self-destruct which prevents opposing forces from potentially using them against friendly troops as well as, eliminating any possible danger to civilians or animal life in the future, unlike many conventional mines in use today. This makes SAVO compliant with US landmine policy.
“This thing is great,” said McCall. “It was not hard to learn, it’s easy to emplace, and you can put the whole thing on safe if you need to do repairs or change batteries or something.”
The SAVO program is one of the latest innovations to come out of RDECOM, which is the U.S. Army’s technology leader and largest technology developer.
RDECOM provides the Army with an organic research and development capability. More than 13,700 Soldiers, civilian employees, and direct contractors are employed at seven major laboratories and research, development and engineering centers. It also integrates technologies developed in partnership with an extensive network of academic, industry and international partners.
“RDECOM has worked on everything from combat vehicles, munitions, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), uniforms, MREs to capabilities like the SAVO,” said Maj. Angela Smoot, RDECOM science and technology advisor to USAREUR. “We take feedback from Soldiers and use it to inform future developments and designs. Technology is an iterative process that requires time to ensure the capability meets the requirement and mission.”
McDevitt said that using the SAVO in this exercise was an “operational proof of concept.” The feedback that comes out of this in the form of After Action Reviews (AARs) and reports from the troops on the ground will be sent back to RDECOM’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center for consideration in future development of the SAVO.
By Staff Sgt. Brian Gordon, 114th Public Affairs Detachment