The Minenräumpanzer Keiler (minclearing tank "tusker"):

The need for a battlefield mine-clearing vehicle was obvious - and even officially recognized - by the 60's. We wasted decades with the analysis of different systems and finally settled on the rotary system with movable arm.

The Keiler was introduced into the Bundeswehr (Heer/army) in 1996-1998 - a mere 24 units.
(Scratch four, as they were already given to Poland.)

The chassis is from the thirsty M48, a tank that was already regarded as quite unsuitable for mobile warfare during the early 70's. It's not in other use and its spare parts are not standard in the Heer anymore.
It's also too slow and too short-legged to keep up with the other vehicles of the armor battalions. That's quite a problem because mobility-enhancing engineers (bridges and obstacle removal) are needed up front, in the advance guard - not somewhere in the back.

The Leopard 1 has a welded instead of a cast steel hull. That's apparently a safety disadvantage that makes it a less desirable vehicle for the job (like apparently Leopard 2 as well). I consider the logistical and mobility problems as serious enough to think that modified Leopard hulls should nevertheless be used.

The system got thoroughly hyped for a few years after its introduction, with frequent images and articles in journals and demonstrations.

Well, the vehicle has a poor chassis - that's all?
No, there's more. Even I wouldn't launch an attack on a system for just that single reason.

Second problem; it's slow. It cannot clear mines at a higher speed than walking pace, and is much, much slower in less suitable terrain. You want to clear mines faster than that on an anti-tank weapons-infested battlefield.

Third problem: Well, this is not a problem - it's a scandal.
Pretty much the same flail mine clearing system was developed by the British to clear the extensive minefields at El Alamein in 1942 (see photo: British WW2 tank "Mathilda" in Scorpion mine flail version):

Congratulations, Generals and Secretaries of Defence!
You were only almost 40 years late! Truly an excellent reason for hyping the result and showing off the (flawed) tool!

- - - - -


A combination of mine rollers/rakes (as in the Russian KMT series), magnetic field projector and a belly armour add-on kit should have been available for a portion of the standard main battle tanks for rapid minefield breaching.

Earthworks and clearing of quickly-laid (and thus usually above-surface) AT mines could have been done (and still should be done) with dozer blade-equipped MBTs.*

Multiple rocket launchers could accompany armour and mechanized infantry brigades. Such launchers could load heavy blast short range rockets for minefield clearing instead of normal artillery rockets for a deliberate attack through obstacles. Similar systems are in use in many armies world-wide and provide very rapid effects.

Finally, a proper mine flail system could have been used just like the Keiler is being used today - but it should have been available since the early 60's!

Such a armour brigade counter-mine capability would have been technologically simple, cheap and should have been available since the mid-60's!

Instead, our rapid minefield-breaching capability is still inadequate.


*: We had that decades ago in M47 and M48 tanks (with normal turret and gun) which had dozer blades and were assigned to engineer units. The only dozer blade I've ever seen on Leopard series MBTs was on the recent Leopard 2 PSO prototype. The only other armoured vehicle dozer blades are on engineer tanks without offensive armament or modern armour.

P.S.: The Bundeswehr has more mine-clearing vehicles. Some wheeled vehicles with rotating brushes to clear scattered runway denial mines from the surface of paved runways are in service of the Luftwaffe, for example. That's of no use on a battlefield, though.

edit 2009-04-16:
I forgot to mention that the Keiler project based on a requirement of 1971, and began with 24 companies offering 80 different solutions. The Keiler concept itself was defined in 1982, prototypes date back to 1985 and the decision to purchase took place in 1991.
"Strategie und Technik" February 2006 has an interesting article about armoured engineer vehicles in the Bundeswehr's history.

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