The arrival of the new Talisman counter-IED system in Afghanistan is helping 15 Field Support Squadron, 38 Engineer Regiment, deal with the menace in less time and more safely.
The improvised explosive device is the biggest threat to life for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
Scattered throughout Helmand province, these indiscriminate weapons kill and maim both ISAF and Afghan forces as well as innocent Afghan civilians.
However, the British Armed Forces now have a revolutionary new capability called Talisman which is being used to counter the threat.
15 Field Support Squadron, who are based in Ripon, North Yorkshire, are the first troops to use the new system on the ground in Afghanistan.
Talisman is comprised of armoured vehicles, optical cameras and remote-controlled vehicles.
This life-saving equipment is being used to support combat logistic patrols which can be up to several hundred vehicles in total and trek through the country delivering vital supplies to bases for the troops on the front line.
Talisman is also starting to be used in combat infantry roles, such as for deliberate route clearances.
Major Thomas Donohoe, Officer Commanding 15 Field Support Squadron, explained:
What Talisman brings is a remote capability. It keeps soldiers out of the contact zone of the IED, massively reducing the danger.
The optics and the unmanned aerial vehicle lower the threat to the team on the ground. It will save lives.
The vehicles and equipment used by the Talisman Troop include a specially equipped Mastiff vehicle, known as ‘Protected Eyes’, and a Buffalo - the most highly protected vehicle on operations.
Both vehicles have V-shaped hulls fitted with ballistic armour which deflect blasts.
There is also a small robot on caterpillar tracks known as a Talon. It is armed with high tech optical equipment which can be operated from the safety of the armoured vehicles. Talon is used to detect and defeat the IED on the ground.
Once the IED threat has been dealt with, the high mobility engineer excavator (HMEE) is brought into play.
The HMEE is an armoured JCB with incredible manoeuvrability which is used to repair any damage caused by IED blasts. It can smash through wadis (rivers), fill holes and move debris to allow combat logistic patrols to pass through.
Not only vital for patrols, this technology has had a positive impact on the local people. Major Donohoe explained:
If we cause damage to the routes through removing these deadly devices, it’s important we rebuild them.
We can show the local people that we’ve made the route safe and then if a device is planted after we’ve moved through them they know it has been laid by the insurgents.
This shows the Afghan people how little regard the insurgents have for their safety.
Major Donohoe is proud of what 15 Field Support Squadron has achieved in a short space of time. He said:
We have trained hard for our role out here. With the new kit we can search for, clear and destroy IEDs much more safely than before.
On clearance operations in the last couple of weeks, the Talisman Troop has led the way, detecting and destroying IEDs and ultimately saving lives.