U.S. Army grants KU $700,000 for Tank-Mine Research

Lawrence,KS (10-03-1997)

From KU Office of University Relations
By Dann Hayes

The University of Kansas has received a $730,000 grant from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command to design the next generation of ground-penetrating radar for detection of anti-tank mines.

The three-year contract issued to the KU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is to design, build and test a radar system that will detect mines and distinguish them from other objects underground.

"A ground-penetrating radar transmits an electromagnetic signal into the ground. When the signal hits an object, a portion of the signal is reflected back to the radar," said Richard George Plumb, KU associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. "The signal reflected from a mine is typically very weak and is obstructed by other signals being reflected from rocks, roots and other ground clutter."

Plumb, the principal investigator, is working with three others at KU's electrical engineering and computer science department -- James Marion Stiles, assistant professor; Sivaprasad Gogineni, professor; and Glenn Eugene Prescott, associate professor -- to design a system that will discriminate between anti-tank mines and other objects in the ground.

"If the only function a radar does is detection, the radar system is useless," Plumb said. "You can't dig everything up. You have to be able to distinguish between an explosive device and a rock."

The KU researchers are combining the two primary types of radar -- pulsed systems and frequency domain -- to develop a better mine-detection system, one that also can be used for anti-personnel land mines.

"What we are going to do is combine the benefits of the two types of radar," Plumb said. "We have a concept at this stage. Now we need to design, build and then test the radar."

The hybrid system has many potential benefits. It offers a higher probability of detection coupled with a low false-alarm rate, and it can be mounted on a vehicle that can travel at speeds up to 15 kilometers an hour, or a little more than nine miles an hour.

On the battlefield, tank mines are used in several ways. They can be set to be activated only by very heavy objects, allowing people and small vehicles to pass. The mines can also be magnetically fused so that a high concentration of metal is required to detonate them.

"When they are set in either of those ways, we can walk on them and jump on them and they won't go off," he said. "But a tank or something heavy goes over, and they will go off."

Although anti-tank mines can be set to explode when a person or animal walks on them, that setting would defeat their purpose on the battlefield.

"Anti-tank mines are somewhat easier to find compared to antipersonnel mines because they are larger, they have more metal, and they are not laid out quite as freely," Plumb said. "Army personnel want it to be productive, so they will place a $100 mine to disable a $4 million tank."

For more information, contact ITTC.

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