Python, the British Army’s minefield breaching system, has been successfully upgraded and tested to improve its safety, according to manufacturer BAE Systems.
The device consists of a 230m long explosive hose that is fired with a rocket into minefields from a towing vehicle – either a British forces Trojan or Terrier. The rocket used is a cast double base ‘Anthony’ Rocket from Roxel, which includes a strip laminate case for added protection.
When detonated, Python then clears a path at least 200m long and 7m wide, allowing defence forces to cross safely. A BAE spokesperson told The Engineer that the detonation of the hose is fully automatic and occurs after the hose lands, “once the built-in Safety, Arming and Firing Unit (SAFU) has detected the required launch and flight conditions”. Two devices can also be used in tandem to clear a 400m long path.
According to BAE, Python has now been upgraded to include an ‘Insensitive Munition’ explosive, meaning it is resistant to bullet attacks and other impacts that could threaten user safety.
“The hose fill in Python is a reduced vulnerability explosive, ROWANEX 4400M, designed as an integral part of the Python system to be compliant with the UK MOD’s Insensitive Munitions policy” BAE Systems’ spokesperson explained.
“ROWANEX 4400M is formulated to meet the performance requirements of the Python system in the form of a ground penetrating, mine disrupting blast wave but to also demonstrate reduced vulnerability to a range of hazardous stimuli such as bullet impact and fuel fire, as specified in NATO standards.”
According to BAE, the increased safety is part of a general approach being taken to make products containing high explosive safer to use across the board. In the case of Python, it – along with its predecessor the Giant Viper System – has a long history on the battlefield that stretches from Operation Desert Storm through to Afghanistan.
Lieutenant General Paul Jaques, Chief of Material (Land) at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation, said: “These upgrades and trials of Python are an achievement for DE&S, industry and the British Army alike. They enhance a piece of kit with a strong history of success: it has already proved its worth while deployed on operations in Afghanistan, where it ensured safe passage for the British Army through IED belts and heavily mined legacy minefields.”