Thursday, 18 February 2010

Python: the full monty - and the Taliban's gone for a burton

The Army has brought in its latest weapon to counter the Taliban's IEDs. Used yesterday for the first time in Afghanistan, the explosives on the 230-metre long snake-like rocket-propelled device will clear a large area thought to contain mines and improvised explosive devices. Mounted on the back of a Trojan armoured engineer tank, the Python replaces the ageing Giant Viper, which dates back to the Fifties, and has the ability to clear a much longer 'safe lane' than its predecessor.

Staff Sergeant Mark Eastley, from 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, said: “It takes your breath away. You see the flash, hear the bang and then feel the shock wave.” Or as Lieutenant Colonel Matt Bazeley, commanding officer of 28 Engineer Regiment, put it: "We are clearing this belt of death so that civilians and their families can begin to live without fear of being blown to pieces by a cowardly and dishonourable enemy that is happy to kill indiscriminately."

Python reminds me of those ingenious devices which inventors came up with during WW2 to combat German mines. I think it was in an episode of World at War that we saw film of giant rocket-powered cartwheels careering over beaches and tanks with revolving chains protruding from their fronts flaying the ground ahead for mines. The Germans themselves came up with their own minesweeping machines: the WunderWaffe 4, which rolled out of one of Krupp's factories in 1944, was a 130t vehicle, articulated in the centre, suspended on 12ft diameter steel wheels and designed to clear a wide path through a minefield.

As they say "necessity is the mother of invention" and, as the Taliban get ever more sophisticated in their use of the insidious IED, so too does NATO develop new technologies to counter them.

Forewarned about Operation Moshtarak, the Taliban had planted thousands of IEDs and booby traps ahead of advancing Allied soldiers. Python will help to clear these and make the area safe for British soldiers and for the local Afghan people alike.

The Times: 'Python' is British Army's winning weapon against Afghan roadside bombs

The Mail: Operation Moshtarak: British Army unleashes latest weapon in battle with 'dishonourable enemy'