The ORACLE (Obstacle Removal and Clear Land Equipment) system is based on an armoured standard Caterpillar Inc. track-type loader. A connected additional hydraulic power unit drives the Spitfire tool, which is a key component of the system. The computer controlled Spitfire Tool strikes the ground in a pre-defined pattern. The operating method is to till the land and to destroy the landmines by impact and disintegration before they can explode. If they explode, however, the 64 tonne machine is substantial enough, particularly the tungsten metal rotating tool at the front, to withstand the blast from all types of landmines, including anti-tank mines. The machine is designed to generate as much uptime as possible. Therefore, the systems that require maintenance are based on adaptable modular systems designed to reduce downtime and the need for specialized parts.
The System components
The ORACLE is capable of clearing up to 156,000 m2 per day travelling at a speed of 5 km/h at IMAS specified 14 cm depth. Furthermore, due to its possessed power, the ORACLE can dig deeper and at a greater rate of advancement than any competitive system.
The Spitfire Tool is the key component of the ORACLE system and is based on the same concept as a grinder used in forestry. The speed at which it rotates is the reason for its success as a de-mining tool – it is designed to destroy the mines completely with as little possible damage to the tool itself. The speed and power of ORACLE actually destroys most mines before the fuse detonates. However, in specific conditions, very few mines detonate, resulting in large forces on the whole system. The Spitfire Tool in practical operation has been proven to withstand impacts from a triple anti-tank mine equivalent to 18 kg forces of TNT. It has been statically tested against 13 kg of C4 explosives.
CAT 973C Track Loader
The standard CAT 973C track-type loader specifications are as follows:
Engine Model Cat C9 TA Diesel
Engine Power 178kW, 2,100 rpm
Operating Weight 29,000 kg (without armour)
Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU)
A separate Caterpillar powered HPU is required as the 973C does not have sufficient power to drive the Spitfire Tool. Based on hydraulic requirements, the HPU has two C18 commercial diesel engines, which together generate 1140 kW at 1,800 rpm, as the power source. Connected to the two C18 diesel engines is a hydrostatic power system for driving the “Spitfire” tool.
The new ORACLE Mark-2 machine incorporates the practical experience gathered over eight years of operations in Croatia. Greater power, an improved tool and a more heavily armoured cab places the Mark-2 as the world’s leading mine clearance machine. The new tool configuration absorbs the increased power more efficiently and ensures that even the smallest anti-personnel mine is struck by claws. Additional armour and increased power has resulted in a total weight of 64-tonnes, more than enough to absorb the strikes of even the largest anti-tank mine on the heavier and redesigned tool. Operator safety is the top priority for protection but also all mission-critical systems are under heavy armour. The HPU track assembly is hydrostatically driven for easy manoeuvring when uncoupled from the tractor unit. The drive system can be engaged during mine clearance operations to generate extra traction. It has proven to be extra helpful in wet conditions. When the tractor unit gets stuck, the rear drive can easily pull back the complete unit to stable ground.
The new Mark-2 tool showing the six ‘rows’ of 20 ‘tines’, each with two ‘claws’. The tool can be programmed to rotate up to 250 RPM. The smallest of anti-personnel mines can be struck by one of the claws. By striking landmines and disintegrating casings, the landmines are rendered harmless. The new design skews the tines and claws along the row so that the power of the Mark-2 is applied smoothly. The structure of the tool and the protection of the drive motors have been reinforced to better absorb any inadvertent mine detonation.
Figure 1: Graph of the ORACLE vs Competitors in Possessed Power
To till deeply and move forward at a reasonable speed governs both the effectiveness of a system and its economic viability. The above chart shows the main competitors to the ORACLE in the marketplace. It can be seen that ORACLE Mark-2 is more powerful than any other system by a wide margin. At 64-tons it is also heavier than the others making it more resilient to damage from Anti-Tank mines. The high power and the design of the tool ensure that heavy ground, even with large rocks embedded, can be worked effectively.