The Air Force is working on a laser-mounted vehicle that can detonate landmines, bombs and other explosives from nearly 1,000 feet away.
Virginia-based Parsons Corporation won a $40 million contract to develop the Recovery of Airbase Denied by Ordnance (RADBO) system, according to C4ISRNET.
When completed, it will be able to fire from more than 984 feet away.
According to Parsons, the laser is powerful enough ‘to detonate small submunitions from cluster bombs, landmines, general-purposed bombs and thick-cased artillery rounds,’ according to Parsons.
The system, which will be used to clear hazards out of airfields, is made up of a mine-resistant Cougar infantry vehicle, Parsons’ three-kilowatt ZEUS laser weapon, and an ‘arm’ that can remove debris or other obstacles.
Parsons VP Hector Cuevas said in a statement the company was ‘delivering a game-changing war-fighting product,’ .
‘We’re proud to partner with the Air Force in deploying this critical force protection and mission enabling technology that will greatly increase safe and effective explosive ordnance disposal operations.’
RADBO is one of three orders the Air Force Research Lab has placed with Parsons totaling $69 million – the price tag includes 13 vehicles and three spares.
It’s being built in Huntsville, Alabama, and is expected to be completed in 2023.
It’s estimated there are some 80 million active landmines around the world.
Each year 15,000 to 20,000 people are injured, maimed or killed by mines, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
But not all the methods to find them are so high-tech: Scientists in Croatia have bred bees that can detect buried landmines from more than three miles away.
And on Friday, an African giant pouched rat was awarded a medal for detecting dozens of mines in Cambodia.
In the past four years, Magawa, a rat trained by the Tanzanian nonprofit APOPO to sniff out explosives and warn his human handlers, has cleared more than 1.5 million square feet.
In that time, he’s found 39 land mines and 28 pieces of ordnance, according to NPR.
The British pet charity PDSA bestowed Magawa with a gold medal, the first time in its 77-year-history a rodent had received an honor.
The PDSA Gold Medal recognizes non-military animals for ‘gallantry or devotion to duty’ and has previously been given to dogs, horses, pigeons and even a cat.
During a virtual ceremony, APOPO Ceo Christophe Cox said landmine detection was ‘expensive and tedious’ work.
‘That’s why we came up with the idea of using rats, because rats are fast,’ Cox said.
‘They can screen an area of 200 square meters in half an hour – something which would take a manual de-miner four days.’