The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program (R & D) develops equipment to assist with the global humanitarian demining effort. Since the program's inception in 1995, significant progress has been made and many successful products have been deployed for field-testing in the mine-plagued nations of Africa, Central America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe. The DoD R & D Program is responsible for the creation of products that broaden the capabilities for detecting, marking, clearing, and neutralizing mines, as well as provide equipment for training and post clearance quality assurance. Feedback from users and field tests are crucial to the continued success of the program and the humanitarian demining cause.
DoD approaches problems in a systematic manner by:
International cooperation is being developed on several fronts. Intergovernmental cooperation takes advantage of local infrastructure and distribution channels. Special Forces, components of the theater commands, Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams, civil affairs, and psychological operations units provide assistance through local governments for demining and mine awareness training programs. Intergovernmental cooperation is vital to developing mine databases and equipment effectiveness analyses, while international coordination is key to establishing statements of requirements for specific humanitarian demining technologies. The United States cooperates globally with governmental agencies, industry, academia, commercial demining companies, international organizations, NGOs, and private volunteer organizations to develop and implement systems that meet humanitarian demining needs.
Personal protection, wide-area detection, handheld detection, vegetation clearance, and mechanical mine clearance are the areas for technology focus within the DoD R & D Program. Despite the increase in safety and efficiency in humanitarian demining operations, the most common method still in use today is manual demining. The DoD R & D Program has made significant enhancements in personal protection equipment and will continue to improve deminer protection gear such as helmets, visors, and body armor. When improving mine detection equipment, the challenge is the abundance of mines with low-metal content, while at the same time discriminating them from nonexplosive debris. The DoD R & D Program has evaluated several prototype systems, using simple to sophisticated technologies to develop improved metal detectors, ground-penetrating radar, as well as other sensors. The global demining community has expressed the urgent need for cost effective and efficient mine clearance products. The DoD R & D Program has evaluated a variety of machines that have proven to increase speed, efficiency, and safety in both mine and vegetation clearance. The DoD has also been able to respond to unique demining situations with demining tools suited for specific needs.
Providing highly trained and skilled personnel and up-to-date equipment in mine-afflicted countries is important for timely and efficient humanitarian demining assistance. As briefly described before, on-the-ground assistance is provided by SOF in order to train local people to recognize, detect, and clear mines. The United States also provides technical in-country support for new research and development items that are provided for evaluation in mine-afflicted regions. This unique in-theater assistance plays a major role in accelerating the development process by insuring that lessons learned in the field are rapidly integrated into improvements of demining tools, training, and information. TO date this assistance has been provided to: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Chile, Croatia, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Laos, Lebanon, Namibia, Nicaragua, and Thailand.