February 12th, 2010
08:01 PM ET

Bulldozer-tank hybrid takes out minefields

On any battlefield, breaching enemy defenses is often the most arduous and deadly part of an offensive. That's especially so when the enemy has had plenty of time to plant minefields or hide IEDs – improvised explosive devices.

So the U.S. Marines – as they move on the Taliban in the Marjah district of Helmand province – are giving thanks for "the Breacher," the latest generation of mine clearance vehicles. Its full name is the Assault Breacher Vehicle and it looks like a cross between a bulldozer and a tank with a set of deadly steel teeth. Which it is: its frame is based on the A1M1 Abrams battle tank, while its plow was developed by a British company and can tear up the dirt to a depth of 14 inches.

The Breacher weighs some 70 tons and yet can travel at speeds of up to 45 mph. In development since the 1990s, it has arrived just in time for a stiff test of its capabilities.

The Taliban have had weeks to place hundreds of IEDs around Marjah, and the early going in the offensive suggests they have certainly slowed down the movement of some allied units. The Taliban are also planting much more powerful and sophisticated devices than they were a year ago. A recent NATO briefing showed that whereas 18 months ago the charge in most IEDs weighed less than 25 pounds, now about three-quarters weigh more than that.

Ahead of the Marjah operation, the Marine commander in southern Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said, "This may be the largest IED threat and largest minefield that NATO has ever faced."

When it hits and detonates a mine or IED, the Breacher hardly shudders. (Watch Marine Corps video of the Breacher in action)

But its greatest asset is the ability to fire rockets with high explosives into a minefield from a distance of some 150 yards. The rockets carry 1,700 pounds of C4 on a line charge – almost like a lasso. When the line lands, it's detonated from within the Breacher and shock waves set off many of the mines. The line can also be used to breach fortifications.

The Marines are probably pretty happy that they persevered with the Breacher after the U.S. Army cancelled a similar program back in 2001 to build a breed of mine clearance vehicles called the Grizzly. There are only a handful of Breachers in service in Afghanistan now, but the Marines hope to have about 50 operational by 2012. And the U.S. Army is now also ordering them. Perhaps that's why one Breacher crew calls their vehicle "the Joker."

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Filed under: Operation Moshtarak • Troops
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Tony

    I really hope those pipelines from Turkmenistan are worth all those lives.

    February 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chicano

    Sounds great Craig.....These poor farmers should stand up with their shovels, picks

    and what ever other farming tools they got and kick some butt. But like the villagers told

    U. S. reporters, " The U.S. has planes, M16s, tanks, drones, missels, and gun ship helicopters

    and they still can't control the Taliban..... What can we do? And yes lets make life better

    for these people by plowing up the farm land that feeds their family.....Or better yet, lets

    use Agent Orange and spray the hell out of them like we did in Viet Nam and kill the vegetation

    at the same time.......My idea. Get our guys out of their, let them fight it out and buy off the

    new leader with billions like we do in other countries with corrupt systems.

    Chicano

    February 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Freedom isn't Free.

    Justice, just courious, how many people can you feed on a bushel of opium sprinkled with IED's? Your comment is like saying, "Ths US Coast Guard sent a helo and a rescue swimmer offshore and saved a drowning fisherman today, but may have scared away the fish."

    February 14, 2010 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. PRDessai

    Great job being done by the troops.To win this war win the hearts & minds of the Marjha Afgans.Give them jobs any jobs & pay them so they are occupied.Immediately try and improve their living conditions which are pathetic.Just give them the basic necessities of life & more than half your battle is won.Good Luck.

    February 14, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. craig

    I am the father of a two Canadian soldiers who have served two combat tours in Afghanistan with the (second battalion PPLCI) they witnessed the damage and casualties inflicted by ieds. I'm glad to see new equipment brought into the fight to help destroy the mines and ieds. In 06 the Taliban thought they could stand and fight and were slaughtered in Kandahar province by our troops. The Taliban learned quickly and after that avoided most combat encounters and resorted to more powerful ieds that have inflicted the most casualties against western troops. The Breacher will greatly reduce casualties to western forces and help defeat the Taliban. I don't care if the entire country of Afghanistan is plowed to a depth of 14 inches, if the locals don't want their farm land destroyed they should stand against the Taliban, until that happens let the plowing begin!

    February 13, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chicano

    I AGREE WITH INCRDEULOUS. LET THEM FIGHT IT OUT THAN BRIBE THE LEADERS.

    IT WORKED WITH NORIEGA IN PANAMA WHO TOOK ORDERS FROM CIA BOSS BUSH WHEN WE WERE CREATING DEMOCRACY IN LATIN AMERICA, IRAG WHEN SADDAM H. WAS OUR BUDDY WHO WE SUPPLED WITH NERVE GASSES TO USE AGAINT IRANS AYATOLLAH AND COMPANY, AND IN CHILE AGAINST ALLENDE, ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE IN A FREE ELECTION BUT NOT TO THE U.S .APPROVAL. AND WHEN THEY NO LONGER WISH TO PLAY
    BALL UNDER OUR PUPPET RULES, SEND IN THE ARMY AND TAKE THEM OUT UNDER THE NAME OF DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM,HUMANITY OR NATIONAL SECURITY.

    AND TALK ABOUT OUR ALLIES, WHY IS IT THAT OVER 4,500 SOLDIERS HAVE DIED IN IRAG AND 90 % HAVE BEEN OUR BRAVE YOUNG SOLDIERS. DO WE NOT HAVE THE RIGHT
    ARMOR OR GENERALS ?

    LETS START RESPECTING OTHER CULTURES AND LET THEM LIVE THEIR LIVES AS THEY CHOOSE OR DON'T. WE CAN'T BE THE WORLDS POLICE FORCE WHEN OUR OWN PRISONS ARE BUSTING AT THE SEAMS WITH PEOPLE OF COLOR AND CHILDREN ARE STARVING IN THE STREETS OF AMERICA. ....THESE ARE BREEDING GROUNDS FOR WHAT?

    ALL YOU FOLKS OUT THERE WITH JOHN WAYNE MENTALITY , SHOOT TEN INDIANS WITH SIX BULLETS AND THAT HAVE BEEN INDOCTRINATED WITH THE MANIFEST DESTINY DOCTRINE, NEED TO WAKE UP....THE WAR IS HERE AT HOME.

    GOD BLESS OUR SOLDIERS AND ENLIGHTEN THE U.S. CITIZEN

    CHICANO

    February 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frankly Opinionated

    JUSTICE GUY:
    Are you off your meds again? How in hell does a Breacher demolish a field? Riddle me that one? Or are yo talking about a minefield? That is one field that it can tear up. As to an agricultural field, the Breacher tills the soil, leaving the Taliban farmers goat fresh for a night of sex with its master. Sounds win/win to me; field gets plowed while goat rests, and Taliban can get another dose of VD in bed at night with his goat. If the dumbass ragheads there had any desire to grow legitimate crops, the UN would be all over it, swapping seeds for money and favors.

    "Never Forget the 14 lives lost at Ft. Hood Texas on 11/5/09!"

    February 13, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John N Florida

    The British have a good history of substituting machines to alleviate the deaths of their young warriors. In WW II the US made fun of their 'funny' tanks. At last we got past that egotism. Anything which serves to keep our kids safer, whether from the US or any of the NATO Forces involved, I'm all for.
    The only reason we had to take on the Taliban was their decision to side with al Quida. The Taliban were beaten in 2002. With the Northern Alliance, as allies, we broke the Taliban. Most put down their weapons and went home. Then we all took a little side trip to Iraq. That created the vacuum which allowed the Taliban to rebuild.
    The Marjah district of Helmand province is just a rehearsal. The tougher job lies ahead in Kandahar. If we can bottle the insurgents up and destroy them here, we won't have to fight these guys later. The Taliban isn't a large force. 1000 destroyed will make a considerable dent in their force structure. The Poppies that are destroyed will put a big dent in their finances.
    It's hoped the local Taliban will again give up. That leaves only the foreign fighters, about 10% of their force structure.
    I WISH our kids didn't have to be there. I WISH G. W. hadn't taken his eye off the ball. WISHIN' don't get it done. These kids, well led and well armed, WILL get it done.
    Good luck, God speed ,and please come home safe.

    February 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. robertson fernandez

    Approoach fast and surprise them. If one is entering a place to easily becareful a trap is there. Never allow reinforcemnts for the Taliban. Hit them, chase them and ensure good aerial view.
    I am no expert I read it somewhere hope it will help

    February 13, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. robertson fernandez

    I am fro the NATO and all allied forces, to take them out from all areas in Afghan. Mistakes were made in2001 and must not be repeated. Loss of lives must be taken into accont. No stopping , think about the many civilians killed in the name of Jihad. IRespect is one thing but got to be respected too. If every religion goes on a war path using the same than it is a crying shame. The US is not bound to carry out this but in the name of humanity she is doing it. Politicians with ego well thee spin doctors are there to cover their craps.
    God bless the all the forces clearing insurgents. Bless their families too. Mat God protect his children

    February 13, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. GrammarPolice

    Good job, Spellchecker. It's always nice to have your type around to keep the world free from errors. However, you may wish to consult your own teacher. Your first sentence is missing a comma.

    February 13, 2010 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. german

    i wonder why you still support this war without any efforts during 8 years
    there is nothing to be pround on, just thousands of dead people, a destroyed country and still no peace

    February 13, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. incrdeulous

    I am amazed with the gung ho attitude displayed in these pages by the arrival of some new piece of hardware that is used in the theatre of war.
    I sympathise with you but i am amazed at just how naive the majority of the American public is that they think America will win this war in Afghanistan and Iraq etc..

    you cannot win against an invisible enemy that is part of the people who are under occupation.
    no matter what machines you deploy, you may not lose through injury one or two people today but because you are there you will lose those people eventually.

    The best way to win is to withdraw let the Afghans decide who they want as their rulers once they have decided gradually win the rulers over as the west has done in the past with incentives ( bribery ) because we are good at that. look at the number of countries we have brought over to our side rather then stay there for the long haul and end up being hated and have another iran. a country that hates the west for its double standards.

    time to stop

    February 13, 2010 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. BubbaG

    The poor Afghan farmer had a choice, HE could have rid himself of the tyrannts who will not let him leave the area OR HE can wait and let us do it for him. The price of the former is HE establishes what he wants for a government, the price of the latter is WE decide and yeah...if WE decide he gets his field plowed up this year.

    Of course let's talk about the REAL problem. For 45 or more years this American government has steadfastly pursued the policy of drug criminalizaton. For the duration of that time the only affect we've had is MORE drugs and lots and lots of death.

    Perhaps we'd be wise to maybe...oh I don't know ... just MAYBE try something ELSE, like ..hmmm... I KNOW... let's try to treat drug addicts for what they are SICK people! Let's let the government MAKE the drugs (I DOUBT they can screw THAT up) and sell them to the physicians an social workers who can then use them to TREAT the SICK people. my my ...that will NEVER work because why, BECAUSE IT"S THE RIGHT THING TO DO!!!

    February 13, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Josiah

    Yes, justic guy, I'm sure "the breacher" is going to disrupt afghan lives more than the taliban presence. yes, blame us for having to demolish farm area that is used for drug trade and terrorist profit. come on man, they may have also forgotten to add that civilians in this area might appreciate harvesting crop instead of metal, and the rid of taliban oppression.

    February 13, 2010 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  16. John

    How fantastic to finally have something to safely get rid of the IEDs. Most people don't realize how many lives we have lost due to the IEDs. Now we can begin to fight the war on our level and not theirs.

    February 13, 2010 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  17. Obaid

    'm a BORN Afghan I want Thank our wonderful US troops and NATO for job they are doing to give us freedom in Afghanistan and here in US.

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! AND THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    February 13, 2010 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  18. Joyce

    Those Breachers are awesome. I hope we get to see some interviews of the crewmembers after they chear out all the IED's.

    February 13, 2010 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  19. Obaid

    I'm a Burne Afghan I want Thank our wonderful US troops and NATO for job they are doing to give us freedom in Afghanistan and here in US.

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! AND THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    February 13, 2010 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
  20. Tracy Lee

    Hey Justice Guy The United States helps them get back thier town and takes care of the bad and you want to complain about the ground being tore up.... Come on we always stay and help with clean up!!! We put the others first all time and put ours in harms way like this is suppose to be a secret but we sent out leaflets to warn the civilians of Marjeh, putting the U.S in harms way AGAIN!!!! They will help build fields and roads again!!! My son is a U.S. Marine he is putting his life on the line and you are worried about the ground!! He is training Afghanistan's to fight, how to take care of their own... Worry about more than the Damn Ground!!!!

    February 13, 2010 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  21. oldgeezer

    EVERY ONE MISSES THE POINT. AMERICA IS NOT THE POLICE OF THE WORLD. THOSE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLING EACH OTHER FOR FIVE THOUSAND YEARS, AND WILL BE KILLING EACH OTHER FOR FIVE THOUSAND MORE. WHY WASTE ONE PRECIOUS DROP OF AMERICAN BLOOD TO BENEFIT POLITICIANS EGOS.

    February 13, 2010 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
  22. Midwestern

    Hey "justice",
    Are you worried about the greater good? How about those same poor "starving" dirt farmers you are worried about, because they are in a state of slavery to the Talaban, beaten to death if they refuse to plant the poppies which create the heroin, which fund the Talaban, who in turn helped kill thousands of Americans in NYC, The farmers sons are forced into "religious education" which tells them to kill Americans to get to heaven. Living the Talaban way is slow death anyway.

    I suppose you are against tracking down those mass killers if they hide behind a wall of endangered horned toads, pigmy owls, etc. You've got to set some priorities, man. It's those soldiers that are dealing in cold hard justice the way the world has understood it for centuries. The Talaban and their buddies like Bin Beard boy kicked a gentle giant (USA) and deserve to get turned into paste. That's justice.

    I do hope the farmers can stay out of harm's way, life will be much better for them without the Talaban, and I wish the soldiers safety in their difficult tasks ahead.

    February 13, 2010 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  23. Gabor

    Justice Guy...
    As a former tank commander, I would say that we are doing the farmers a favor. Consider that all land mines and IEDs will be cleared by weight of the vehicle and/or the explosive charge. Yes, the fields will be sans mines and ready workable. Moreover, tilling likely is not required! If we keep our troops safe and limit the damage that mines/IEDs may do in the years to come, this is nothing but a win / win device.

    February 13, 2010 at 3:13 am | Report abuse |
  24. Stormbringer

    @justice guy: The same "dirt poor" farmers that supply 60% of the world's opium?

    February 13, 2010 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
  25. Joseph

    Hey (Spellchecker), I'm pretty sure you are in America just like many others, so why don't you shut up and say something positive or nothing at all, or weren't you taught that? America has always helped other countries in need, when others have looked away. Why don't you comment about the some 4,000 troops killed so far trying to help people who live in poverty and extreme violence, you would rather come in and make silly comments toward someone's spelling mistake.

    February 13, 2010 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
  26. Spellchecker

    You're a teacher and you can't spell troops?
    God bless America.

    February 13, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  27. norman

    Now we are about to clearn the IEDS once and for all..

    These devices have injured or killed many. They are evil and evil will
    be defeated by our Nato forces. Our prayers are with you as you advance
    in the midst of sinister areas.

    It is fitting to see our technology such as the improvised tank to rid the
    road of ieds as they have been a scourge to our boys in Canada and
    the United states of America.

    Bless you as you go forward and bring this evil regime , the taliban to
    justice for all the crimes perpetrated in the past.

    GOD SPEED AND GOD BLESS!!

    February 12, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  28. marklaw

    Troups, *I am a teacher in Kansas,I closely monitor your loyal efforts.The US will prevail,along with the efforts of our allies.

    February 12, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Jack

    It's the hull of an M1A1 you dolts. People who don't know squat about the military shouldn't be allowed to write about it.

    February 12, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  30. justice guy

    You forgot to add that "the Breacher" demolishes the fields of the dirt poor Afghan farmers banning them to starvation and death

    February 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |