Fighting Fire with Fire

By Mks | Whole Earth, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Fighting Fire with Fire


Mks, Whole Earth


FIREANT LANDMINE DESTROYER

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, Central Enquiry Desk, Ively Road, Farmborough, Hampshire GU14 oLX, United Kingdom. +44 (0) 1252 393300, www.dera.gov.uk/dera.htm.

Landmines are a nasty piece of human ingenuity. Efforts to ban them continue (see access). In the meantime, millions remain in place, poised to kill and maim. No one knows how many landmines lie buried throughout the world, but estimates range from 85 to 110 million. Every week they kill or injure another 500 people-90 percent of them unarmed civilians, of whom 30 percent are children.

The British Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) created FireAnt as a safe, cost-effective, mine-clearing tool. The FireAnt is placed close to a mine. After remote ignition, electronically or by fuse, its 1500 [degrees] C flame burns through the mine's thin metal or plastic casing and burns the explosive and detonator without triggering the mine. The FireAnt itself uses an igniter rather than a detonator, and contains no high explosives; it's designed to be safe to handle and store, with no intrinsic value to terrorists or criminals. …

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