Categories
Modern German Other Vehicles Modern Swiss Armor

AEV 3 Kodiak

Switzerland/Germany (2002)
Armored Engineering Vehicle – 43 Built

The AEV 3, nicknamed ‘Kodiak’, is an armored engineering vehicle currently in service with four armies in modest numbers. The vehicle, being based on the Leopard 2 MBT chassis, offers a high level of protection, combined with good mobility. With the use of different modules, the Kodiak has a variety of uses, including breaching minefields and destroying or erecting obstacles. It was the Swiss Army which initiated the development process and a consortium was set up between the German company Rheinmetall Landsysteme and the Swiss company RUAG Defence. The first prototype, funded by both companies, was well received and ordered by Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Singapore. The vehicle is still marketed, with current Leopard 2 users as potential buyers.

The AEV 3 Kodiak prototype during a demonstration using the excavator arm. Source: Rheinmetall Defence Press

The Leopard 2

The Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank was developed by Krauss-Maffei during the 1970s and succeeded the Leopard 1. The tank, armed with a 120 mm gun and powered by a V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, is currently in service with eighteen countries. Since the first tank entered service in 1979, it has seen many upgrades and improvements. Over time, the Leopard 2 chassis was used to develop other vehicles as well, like an armored recovery vehicle and an armored vehicle launched bridge. An armored engineering vehicle was not initially developed, however, around the turn of the century, several armies started to feel a need for such a vehicle.

The first prototype under construction. Source: Allgemeine schweizerische Militärzeitschrift

Early development

The development of the Kodiak started in April 2002 when Switzerland initiated its Armored Engineer Vehicle 3 (AEV 3) program. The strategic technology partner of the Swiss Army, RUAG Defence, committed to a consortium with Rheinmetall Landsysteme, based in Kiel, Germany. Rheinmetall, with future sales in mind, nicknamed the project ‘Kodiak’ for marketing purposes, referring to the Kodiak bear, one of the two largest bear species. A team of experts from both companies worked closely together developing and manufacturing the new vehicle. The prototype was developed and completed using private industrial funds.
After Armasuisse, the procurement agency of the Swiss Army, handed over a surplus Leopard 2 chassis from Swiss army stock, construction of the prototype could be initiated. It would be completed shortly after, in May 2003. The vehicle was ready for its first trials and handed over to the Swiss Army for a two month trial period. The vehicle passed these tests successfully. In 2004, the AEV was shown at Eurosatory in Paris Nord-Villepinte, France, a biennial Defense and Security Exhibition. The vehicle sparked interest by several Leopard 2 MBT operating armies, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, so the vehicle underwent trials with these countries. An important series of trials was conducted at a Spanish Army base in Zaragoza, where the vehicle proved to be well capable of operating in a warmer environment than northwest Europe.
In early 2005, the AEV3 prototype was sent to Sweden and leased to the Swedish armed forces procurement agency (FMV, Försvarets Materiel Verk) to be tested at Boden in northern Sweden in harsh winter conditions. Beforehand, a Swedish crew was trained by Rheinmetall employees. The tests confirmed that the vehicle met Swedish requirements for an armored high-performance multiple purpose engineering system. After the successful trials, the vehicle was returned to Rheinmetall and the test results were shared with the International AEV Coordination Group which then consisted of Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain. This group was specifically established to harmonize national AEV requirements and programs. Despite the successful trials, Spain backed out of the program and chose to acquire the domestically-built Pizarro CEV instead. Denmark backed out of the program as well, deciding it did not need an AEV yet, but later went to acquire the Wisent 1 AEV/ARV based on the older Leopard 1 chassis.

Design

Powered by the MTU-MB873 V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, producing 1475 hp, the Kodiak can reach a top speed of 68 km/h (42 mph). Weighing in at 62 tonnes, the vehicle falls in the MLC 70 class (Military Load Class, NATO vehicle classification system based on weight) and has a power to weight ratio of 23.8 hp/t. The weight is spread over seven road wheels on each side and the tracks are guided by four return rollers. The tracks can be tensioned with the idler wheel at the front and are driven by the drive sprocket at the rear.
Although a large part of the chassis remained unchanged compared to the Leopard 2, the front armor plate and turret were removed to make place for a superstructure. This superstructure, with a heavy slope on the front and slight sloping on the sides and rear, extends to roughly the middle of the vehicle. The superstructure is split in two, to accommodate the hinged-arm excavator being placed front center, unlike many other AEVs which have their excavator arm located on the side of the vehicle. A centrally placed excavator, however, offers a major advantage to the crew as they have a better view of what they are doing. Furthermore, it eases operation in confined spaces.
The excavator bucket has a volume of one cubic meter and, when in continuous use, it can move up to 200 cubic meters of earth per hour. The arm has a horizontal operational range of 9 meters and a range of 8.2 meters vertically. The arm can also be used to lift objects up with a weight of up to 3.5 tonnes (2.6 tonnes when the bucket is attached). These objects include things like logs and fascines. The bucket is attached to the arm with a hydraulically actuated quick coupling device, so it can easily be detached and replaced by another kind of tool. These tools include a universal gripper, a hydraulic hammer, an earth drill, a fascine launching system, and a concrete crusher. Two of these tools can be transported on the rear rack of the Kodiak, above the engine deck, while additional ones can be transported separately by a truck. The crew can perform all these actions without having to exit the vehicle.
Furthermore, the vehicle is equipped with two capstan type Rotzler winches which can pull 9 tonnes each at a speed up to 90 meters per minute and with a cable length up to 200 meters. Although the vehicle is primarily designed to be used during military operations on the battlefield, it can also be used during disaster relief or civil-military operations due to its wide array of equipment.

A Dutch Kodiak crushing a car with its excavator arm. Source: Defensie

Crew

The vehicle is manned by a crew of three: a commander, a driver, and an engineer, but the vehicle is also fully operable when only manned by the commander and driver. As the crew compartment consists of two halves, the crew members are separated from each other, with the commander sitting in the right half, the driver in the left front, and the engineer behind him. The chairs, equipped with 4-point belts, are mounted on the roof so, when the vehicle is hit by an explosive charge like a land mine or Improvised Explosive Device (IED), less of the force of the blast is imparted to the crew. Together with a reasonable amount of space and air conditioning, the crew conditions are rather good.
Six cameras provide a panoramic surrounding view which allows the crew to fully operate the vehicle with no problems.

Armament

To defend itself against near threats, the Kodiak is equipped with a weapon station on top of the right side of the superstructure. This station, which can be operated both manually and remotely, is armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun, but can also be equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher. Furthermore, the vehicle is equipped with a smoke grenade launcher system which is mounted on the front.

The Pearson mine plow, seen from above, mounted on a Dutch Kodiak. Source: Defensie

Mine Plow Capabilities

Besides the conventional dozer which has a width of 3.42 meters or 4.02 meters with side extensions, the Kodiak can be equipped with a mine plow. This mine plow was developed by the British company Pearson Engineering and is marketed under the name Full Width Mine Plough (FWMP) which clears mines and explosives down to thirty centimeters underground. With this mine-breaching method, a path of 150 meters can be cleared within a minute. It also features an integrated electromagnetic system, meaning that explosives with electrical ignitions explode immediately. When equipped, the plow adds 4 meters to the total length of the vehicle.
To mark the breached path, the Kodiak is also equipped with a Pearson Lane Marking System. This system features two devices per side, containing fifty marker poles each. They are pneumatically fired into the ground at either timed or distance based intervals and have enough power to penetrate asphalt as well. The poles are equipped with LEDs so that a breached path can also be recognized during bad weather or nighttime.
Both systems are not unique to the Kodiak, for example, they are also used on the American M1150 ABV and the British Trojan AVRE, among others.

One of the Singaporean Kodiaks with its crew. The Army of Singapore was the latest customer of the Kodiak. Source: Singapore Army


A Swedish Kodiak taking part in Bison Counter 2016. Photo: European Defence Agency

Swiss Order

On January 9, 2007, Rheinmetall announced that the Swiss procurement agency had signed the first contract for the delivery of twelve Kodiak AEV 3, in Swiss army parlance known as Geniepanzer. The deal had a value of CHF 95 million (US$76 million), an earlier CHF 129 million (US$103 million) offer had been rejected in 2005 by the Swiss parliament. The first vehicles were planned to be delivered over the course of 2009. Construction was to take place in Switzerland by RUAG, assisted by Rheinmetall Landsysteme Gmbh in Kiel, a subsidiary of Rheinmetall AG of Düsseldorf. Production took longer than anticipated, and the delivery date was postponed to the end of 2010, however, this was further delayed.
A further setback was encountered in January 2011 when it became apparent that the hydraulic arm became heated up within a short time of use, which meant that it had to cool down before returning into action. Fortunately, the issue could be resolved, but the last AEV was only delivered just before the end of 2011. Although twelve vehicles were ordered, only six Pearson mine-clearing modules were ordered. The twelve Leopard 2 chassis, designated Panzer 87 in Swiss use, came from Swiss army stocks with turrets removed. Since delivery, the vehicles are in use with the Panzersappeurbataillon 11, 11th Battalion Combat Engineers.

One of the Swiss Kodiaks during production at the RUAG works. Source: Moritz Hage

Swedish-Dutch Cooperation

In 1999, Sweden initiated a procurement program for a combat engineering vehicle and after deciding against using the Leopard 1 chassis as a base for this new vehicle, the Leopard 2 chassis, in Sweden known as the Stridsvagn 121, was chosen. To reduce costs, the Swedish procurement agency tried to collaborate with other agencies participating in the coordination group. An initial collaboration with Switzerland was set up but had to be terminated in December 2001 due to lack of funding from the Swedish government. While production of the Kodiak prototype started in Switzerland, Sweden was approached by Denmark, but during the final negotiations, Denmark backed out of the program altogether. After these initial difficulties, Sweden eventually initiated their AEV 3 S program in 2005, with the Dutch Army joining in 2006. In the Netherlands, the need for a new AEV had already emerged during the mid-’90s. On January 16, 2008, the procurement agencies of both Sweden and the Netherlands placed a combined order for 16 vehicles, six for Sweden and ten for the Netherlands for a total amount of €100 million (US$147 million, roughly €60 million from the Netherlands and €40 million from Sweden or US$88.2 million and US$58.8 million respectively). As a result, costs could be reduced by 20% because it created the possibility to substantially reduce non-recurring costs and brought advantages in production and purchasing. Delivery period was set for 2011-2012.

The first Kodiak that was shipped to Sweden already painted in a Swedish camouflage scheme. Source: Rheinmetall Defence

Delivery to Sweden

Sweden provided six Stridsvagn 121 chassis for conversion. Their turrets were removed by Markverkstaden in Skövde and the chassis were upgraded to Stridsvagn 122 standards. After the preparations were completed, the chassis were shipped to Germany after which they were converted into AEV 3 S (Swedish). In November 2011, the first out of six AEV3 S Kodiaks was handed over to the Swedish armed forces procurement agency (FMV, Försvarets Materiel Verk). The symbolic keys were handed over during an official ceremony in Kiel, the home base of Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH. Known in Sweden as Ingenjörbandvagn 120, the vehicles are operated by the two Engineering Battalions which received three vehicles each.

Delivery to the Netherlands

The Netherlands used Leopard 2A4 chassis from their own stocks as well. Ten vehicles were completely overhauled by Instandhoudingsbedrijf Landsystemen (Conservation company Land systems) in Leusden, and the turrets were removed as well. After these were converted in Germany and delivered, the vehicles were intensively tested. During these tests, several teething problems were resolved, including some major issues with the hydraulics. At the end of 2017, the vehicles were banned from driving on roads because a control cable had snapped in one vehicle. Eventually, on May 31, 2018, the vehicles could finally be transferred into active service, as all problems had been resolved. The ten vehicles replaced fourteen Leopard 1 engineer vehicles, which were heavily worn out. Its projected service life is set to be around thirty years. In 2019, some Dutch Kodiaks were made available to be used by the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) of NATO.
The Swedish and Dutch Kodiaks are roughly 95% percent identical to each other, with differences being the camouflage patterns, markings, the smoke grenade discharge arrangements, some tools, and the Dutch vehicles feature a bomblet protection package.

Operation by Singapore

When the Army of Singapore decided to buy Leopard 2 MBTs, a total of fourteen Kodiaks were ordered and delivered in 2014-2015, replacing the aged US-built M728 CEVs. The Kodiaks, in Singapore Army parlance mainly known as L2-AEV, are operated by the 38th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers (38 SCE), together with the Leopard 2 AVLB. This armored engineer battalion is specifically trained to operate together with other armored forces. The vehicles are painted in a green color and feature a white on black registration plate on the front left side.

One of the Singapore Army Kodiaks during a parade pictured from above. Source: unclear

The future of the Kodiak

The Kodiak is still marketed by Rheinmetall and RUAG. It also is Rheinmetall’s entry in the competition to supply the German Army (Bundeswehr) with a new armored engineering vehicle. Its main competition will probably be the more recently developed Wisent 2, an AEV/ARV developed by the German company FFG, also based on the Leopard 2 chassis and already in use with the Canadian and Norwegian armies and on order by the Army of Qatar. Whether Rheinmetall will manage to secure future sales of the Kodiak remains uncertain, but potential buyers include Austria, Chile, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Poland, Portugal, and Turkey, as these countries all operate Leopard 2 MBTs and are either operating older or no armored engineering vehicles. Countries which are most likely not going to operate Kodiaks, while fielding Leopard 2 tanks, are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Qatar, and Spain, as these countries are already operating, or going to operate, other modern AEVs.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 10.2 (14.02m with plow, 11m with dozer blade) x 3.54 x 2.6 meters
Total weight, battle-ready 62,000 kg, MLC70
Crew 2-3 (Commander, Driver, Engineer)
Propulsion MTU-MB873 diesel engine, 1,100 kW (1475 hp).
Maximum speed 68 km/h (42.3 mph)
Suspensions High-hardness-steel torsion bars with rotary shock absorbers
Armament 12.7 mm machine gun or 40mm grenade launcher
Ballistic Protection STANAG 4569 edition 1 annex A/level 4
Mine Protection STANAG 4569 edition 1 annex B/level 3B and 4A
Production 43

Sources

AEV 3 Kodiak – Technology for Combat Engineers, RUMAG Brochure, PDF.
World’s first Leopard 2-based armoured engineer vehicle, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, May 8, 2003. (LINK)
AEV 3 Kodiak stands up to extreme Arctic conditions in Sweden, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, March 23, 2005. (LINK)
Swiss Army orders new Armoured Engineer Vehicle from Rheinmetall, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, January 9, 2007. (LINK)
Rheinmetall to supply Kodiak armoured engineer vehicles to Sweden and the Netherlands, Press release Rheinmetall Defence, January 17, 2008. (LINK)
Converted Leopard with claws, FMV press release, March 14, 2008. (LINK)
Rheinmetall transfers first Kodiak armoured engineering vehicle to Sweden, Press Release Rheinmetall Defence, PDF, November 21, 2011.
RUAG supplies Leopard Armoured Engineer and Mine-Clearance vehicles for the Swiss Armed Forces, Press release RUAG Defence, December 23, 2011. (LINK)
Trotz Panne fliegen die Funken, Berner Zeitung, January 14, 2011.
Ingenjörbandvagn (Ingbv) 120, Jan Forsberg, Pansar Nummer 1, 2012, PDF.
En tysk försvarsjätte, Slagfjädern Nummer 4, 2012, PDF.
Wehrtechnischer Report, issue 2/2015.doz
Allgemeine schweizerische Militärzeitschrift Band 169 Heft 5, 2003, Andreas Renker, p.16-17, Neuer Geniepanzer auf der «Leo-2»-Plattform.
Defensie Krant, Prototype genie-/doorbraaktank doorstaat testen, January 17, 2008, Dutch Ministry of Defence.
Defensiebeer beschermt bemanning tegen explosieven, Materieel Gezien 04, May 22, 2014.
Nieuwe Kodiaktank van de Landmacht krijgt rijverbod, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 22 November, 2017. (LINK)
Een beer van een tank als grommende gereedschapskist, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 22 November 2017. (LINK)
Landmacht krijgt krachtpatser met Kodiak-geniedoorbraaktank, Dutch Ministry of Defence press release, May 31, 2018. (LINK)
The Kodiak on the official Dutch Defence website.
The Kodiak on the official Swedish Defence website.
The Kodiak on the official Singapore Defence website and Facebook.
Full Width Mine Plough description on Pearson-eng.com
Numbers of delivery on SIPRI trade Registers.



A Swedish AEV 3 Kodiak in its standard configuration with a dozer blade at the front.


A Dutch AEV 3 Kodiak equipped with a Pearson mine plow and lane marking system.

These illustrations were produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Categories
Modern German Other Vehicles

Minenräumer ‘Minebreaker 2000/2’

Western Germany (1999)
Mine Clearing Vehicle – At Least 3 Built

In the late 1990s, the Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG, Eng: Flensburg Vehicle Manufacturing Company) unveiled a powerful new demining vehicle. It was designed to be capable of clearing large areas of ground quicker than existing vehicles.

This machine was called the Minenräumer (Eng: Mine Clearer) ‘Minebreaker 2000/2’ and was based on the heavily modified chassis of the old German Main Battle Tank (MBT), the Leopard 1. For the entirety of its existence, the mine clearer has been painted completely in bright red paint, with the exception of its bright blue control cab.

The big red Minebreaker is one of the largest and most powerful mine-clearing vehicles to have ever existed. Civilian demining organizations such as German Welt-Entminungs-Hilfe (Eng: German World Demining Aid) began using the vehicle in the late-1990s, but the machine also caught the eye of the world’s militaries. In September 2000, the South Korean Army became the first military to procure the vehicle, for the purpose of demining the inner-Korean border should the need arise. In 2002, the German Army purchased the machine seeing a need for a demining vehicle capable of clearing a larger area than the in-service Keiler Mine Flail. It had a very short service life with the German Army, being retired in 2014. It did, however, see minor service in Afghanistan around Kabul International Airport.

The Minebreaker 2000/2. Photo: Panzernet

The Big Red Beast

By the late-1990s, the Leopard 1 had long fallen out of service with the German Army. As such, it was the perfect candidate for the butchery that would take place converting it into the monstrous Minebreaker.

The Minebreaker was designed by Jorg Kamper, though unfortunately, not much is known about the man. The main feature of his Minenräumer is the large, combine harvester like plow at the front of the vehicle. The plow takes the form of a large tilling drum covered in long metal teeth. The plow is supported by giant arms that extend back to the center of the hull. In the middle of the arms is the command position, enclosed within a ballistically-protected, bright blue (or sometimes white) cabin. Behind the cab, protruding from the engine deck, are two, truck-like exhaust pipes or ‘smokestacks’. Finally, at the very rear of the hull, hanging over the back of the engine deck is a large box housing the vehicle’s giant air ventilation system.

Hull

The Leopard’s chassis is barely recognizable as the hull of this vehicle. The only recognizable features are the vestigial exhaust vents on the sides on the engine deck, just above the sprocket wheels, and the running gear. The running gear did see a small addition in the form of a protective disc attached to the sprocket wheel. Exactly what purpose this disc has, however, is unknown.

The engine is one of the few unchanged parts of the Leopard 1’s anatomy. It remains the same 10-cylinder, 37.4-litre multi-fuel MTU MB 838 CaM 500 engine. This engine produces 819 horsepower and propelled the 40-tonne Leopard 1 to 65 km/h (40 mph). The Minebreaker is 9 tonnes heavier than the Leopard, weighing in at 49 tonnes. The Minebreaker travels at a fraction of the speed of the Leopard 1, though, with a top speed of just 4 km/h. This is because the plow, and the vehicle itself, is driven hydraulically via a multi-pump transfer drive. In the case of mine clearing operations, this is not a bad thing. It allows every inch of ground to be cleared, forming as safe an area as possible. This hydrostatic drive allows the Minebreaker to travel as slow as 1 meter-per-minute.

Mine Clearing Equipment

The mine plow of the Minebreaker takes the form of a large tilling drum. The drum is covered in around 50, long chisel-like teeth. As the vehicle’s designer once explained: “The tilling drum is fitted with heavy-duty tungsten carbide teeth. If a mine blows up these teeth are the only piece damaged, but [they] are cheap and can be exchanged within minutes…”. Teeth included, the drum is 1.8 meters in diameter and 3.69 meters wide. The drum is covered in a large hood to stop debris and undetonated mines hitting the vehicle.

The gargantuan tilling assembly located at the front of the Minebreaker. Photo: Uwe Hellmann, Tankograd Publishing

The tilling drum is carried by a large frame consisting of two huge arms on the left and right of the drum, and a crossbar that spans the gap between the two. Attached to the bar are two hydraulic rams that raise and lower the tiller as required. The arms are attached to pivot joints roughly halfway along the length of the hull, just above the fourth road wheel. The drum was rotated via chains housed inside the supporting arms. On the inner side of the arm, near the ‘elbow’, was a small motor, powered by the hydraulic drive. This could rotate the drum in both a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction. Anticlockwise is often the preferred direction as it lifts mines out of the ground. Clockwise rotation can result in pushing the mine further into the ground. Unfortunately, the rotational speed of the drum is currently unknown.

The large frame that carriers the tilling drum is raised to allow the vehicle to move around slightly easier. Photo: topwar.ru

Thanks to the hydraulic drive, the vehicle can clear mines at various speeds and various soil types. In light soil, the vehicle clears at 12-20 m/min, 5-12 m/min in medium soil, and 2-5 m/min in heavy soil. This was estimated as being 20 to 40 times faster than a squad of 20 experienced deminers. The vehicle has an approximate clearing rate of 15,000 mᒾ – 20,000 mᒾ (1.5 – 2 Hectares) per day. Clearance depth of the tilling drum is 300 – 500 mm. Due to the size and limited flexibility of the tilling drum, the vehicle can only clear reliably on predominantly flat ground. Ground sloped over 35 degrees cannot be cleared by this vehicle.

The immense tilling drum of the Minebreaker. At the end of each blade, there is a tungsten-carbide tooth. Photo: 270862 of Flickr

Control Cab

The Minebreaker is driven and controlled by a single operator, located in a small bright blue cab placed in the middle of the vehicle. The cab was positioned on a large metal plate that covered the empty, 198 cm diameter turret ring. The cab is ballistically protected by 20 mm steel armor and 70 mm of layered bulletproof glass on the four windows. There is a window on the front of the cab (with a wiper blade), one on each side, and one at the rear built into the armored door used to gain entrance to the cab.

The bright blue one-man control cab of the Minebreaker. Note Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft’s ‘FFG’ logo on the front plate. Photo: Public Domain

The Minebreaker is incredibly easy to control. There are two joysticks attacked to control units on the left and right side of the driver’s seat. One stick is used to drive the vehicle, the other operates the tilling rig. The ease of control means anyone with basic knowledge and qualifications in operating foundry or construction equipment can easily, and quickly, be trained to operate the Minebreaker. The Operator’s seat is mounted above shock-absorbers. These shock-absorbers cushion the Operator from the force of an exploding mine. For example, the G-force produced by the detonation of a 7kg explosive is reduced to just 2 Gs in the cab. This is comparable to a car mounting a curb at walking speed. The seat also rotates to allow the Operator to egress the cab through the armored door.

A view of the Minebreaker from the engine deck. The armored door to the cab is open and the operating seat rotated. Note also, the motor that drives the chain to the milling drum on the inside of the support arm. Photo: GICHD

Other Features

One other large, eye-catching feature of the Minebreaker is the air filter assembly at the rear of the vehicle. The Minebreaker is a large and powerful mine clearing vehicle, and as such, produces a lot of dust and debris when its tilling drum is at full speed cutting into terrain. The powerful MTU (Motoren und Turbinen Union meaning, Eng: Motor and Turbine Union) engine is air-cooled, and of course, requires oxygen for the combustion process. To provide the cleanest possible air in a cloud of dust, the air filters were made truly large. The whole assembly is housed inside a large box overhanging the rear of the vehicle, supported by welded framework. Clean air is pumped into the engine bay directly through the engine deck. A large ‘hump’ of metal plating protects the connection between the front of the filter box and engine deck. The exact model of the filter, or how it operates, is unfortunately unknown at this time.

The huge air-filtration system at the rear of the Minebreaker. Note the extensive supporting framework underneath, and the ladder that allows maintenance access. Photo: 270862 of Flickr

To accommodate the filtration system, the exhaust gasses had to be diverted from the usual grills on the left and right of the hull, at the rear. For this, new exhaust pipes were installed just in front of these grills. The pipes culminated in large, semi-truck-like smokestacks just over a meter high, complete with perforated, heat sinking cowling.

Climbing aboard the Minebreaker is easy. Just in front of the left smokestack is a ladder. When the operator is aboard, it is then folded up and locked in place to stop it getting tangled up with the running gear. There is also a folding ladder attached to the left rear corner of the air filter.

The folding access ladder and left smoke stack of the Minebreaker. Photo: 270862 of Flickr

The Minebreaker is not intended for use in active combat areas and as such, it is mostly unarmored. Also, as a slow moving vehicle, it is an easy target for an aggressor tank or anti-tank weapon. The vehicle’s protective cab is only meant to protect the vehicle from small arms fire and the detonation of mines. Although the Leopard 1 was never a heavily armored vehicle, with a maximum armor thickness of 70 mm, it still grants a good level of protection for the Operator and the internal mechanics.

Another feature of the Minebreaker is that – according to both the designer, Jorg Kamper, and the manufacturer, FFG – the Minebreaker is a modular system. Kamper as been recorded as saying “…it is [currently] mounted on a Leopard 1 chassis, but [it] is a modular system and can fit almost [any other tracked chassis] such as the T-55, T-72, M48, M60…”. There is nothing to say that this is not true, but, for now at least, the only built and used Minebreakers have been Leopard 1 based.

Service

SFOR: Bosnia and Herzegovina

The first uses of the Minebreaker were at the hands of private, non-military demining organizations. As already stated, this included German Welt-Entminungs-Hilfe. In 1999, this organization aided NATO’s ‘Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR)’ in the removal of mines from Vidovice, Kopanice and Jenjic. These were small towns on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s northeastern border with Croatia. These towns were in the Posavina Corridor, in the Sava River valley, some of the most hotly contested ground in the Bosnian War of 1992 – 1995. As such, the ground was heavily saturated with minefields.

The Minebreaker in Vidovice, Bosnia. Photo: Capt. Jesus Campuzano

For three years, the Minebreaker was used here in clearing operations. The Minebreaker was operated by personnel from Croatia’s 4th Guards Brigade ‘The Spiders’. The 4th Guards Bde. was under the supervision of the United States 1st Engineer Battalion, which was in the country as part of Task Force ‘Catamount’.

ISAF: Afghanistan

When it entered service with the German Army, the Teutonic Cross was added to the vehicle, on the tiller arms. The first use of the Minebreaker by the German Army came in September 2002, in Afghanistan. The Minebreaker was deployed with the German contingent of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, also known as ‘ISAF’. While part of this force, the ‘ISAF’ logo was applied to the tiller arms. The Minebreaker proved to be somewhat of a logistical headache as no military aircraft was capable of carrying the vehicle to Afghanistan. The Ukrainian based Antonov Airlines were contracted to transport the Minebreaker, using the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the Antonov An-225 Mriya.

The Minebreaker is unloaded from the Antonov 225 at Kabul International Airport in September 2002. Photo: Pioneer News

The Minebreaker was tasked with clearing mines from the area around Kabul International Airport. Similar missions took place in this area, undertaken by various nation’s armies. The US Army, for instance, deployed the remote-controllable M1 Panther II for this task. The Minebreaker was in operation in Afghanistan for two years, after which it was sent back to Germany where it was used as a training vehicle.

Conclusion

The Minebreaker was retired from German military service in 2014. It is unknown whether South Korea’s machine is still operational. The Minebreaker is still listed as being available to purchase from Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG), however.

It is not known whether there are any other Minebreakers currently in service in the world, or whether they have been based on other vehicles. For now, at least, the only known Minebreakers remain Leopard 1 based. It also still one of the most powerful mine clearing vehicles to have ever existed.



The Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG) Minenräumer ‘Minebreaker 2000/2’. The hull of the Leopard 1 is barely recogniseable under all of the added components and large mineclearing tiller drum assembly. This illustration was produced by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 10.94 x 4.51 x 3.31 meters
Total weight, battle ready 49 tonnes
Crew 1 (Operator)
Propulsion MTU MB 838 CaM 500 engine, 819hp
Suspension Independent torsion bars
Speed (road) 1 m/min – 4 km/h (2.4 mph)
Equipment 1.8 x 3.69 meter Mine Clearing Tilling Drum
Armor Max 70 mm on the hull, 70mm bulletproof gl.
Production At least 3

Sources

Ralph Zwilling, Minenräumfahrzeuge: Mine-clearing Vehicles from the Keiler to the German Route Clearance System, Tankograd Publishing
Pionier News, The German Corps of Engineers Magazine, Edition No. 5, December 2002. Page 28-29, an article by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Sponfeldner. (PDF)
Mechanical Demining Equipment Catalogue 2008 (PDF)
Mechanical Demining Equipment Catalogue 2010 ( PDF)
www.gichd.org
www.nato.int/sfor
www.ffg-flensburg.de
texogatech.com/minebreaker001.cfm