MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Three Aardvarks recently visited Maintenance Center Albany, but not the sharp-clawed burrowing creatures found in Africa.
An Aardvark MK3 is an armored vehicle that effectively clears antitank and antipersonnel landmines. Aardvark Clear Mine Ltd in Scotland manufactures the MK3. The vehicle either detonates or unearths the mines by using 72 rotating chains attached to a flail at the front of the vehicle. The rotating flail whips the chains in a vertical motion ensuring every piece of ground the approximately ten-foot wide flail covers, is struck twice.
During Desert Storm the Iraqi defenses positioned more than seven million antipersonnel and antitank mines around the newly conquered territory of Kuwait to fend off Coalition forces. The minefields did not work as well as intended due to the coalition's use of effective landmine-clearing devices such as the MK3.
With the current war on terrorism in progress, the MK3s were taken from their resting spots at MCLB Albany and given a "makeover." The vehicles, which were purchased during Desert Storm have sat for 11 years under a small covered area, waiting to be used by Marines.
"We were told they needed these vehicles ready in case they had to be sent out for Operation Enduring Freedom," said Peter Link, industrial engineer technician at the Albany Maintenance Center.
According to Link, the vehicles were inspected, modified, repaired and new paint applied. They were not badly damaged, but they had not been used since they were brought to the base and needed much attention. All the vehicles' fluids, such as oil, fuel and hydraulic fluids, were replaced. Many of the electrical components were not working properly, so they also were repaired. The vehicles still had sand and dirt in them from prior use and were cleaned. Once the vehicles were finely tuned and properly working again, they were sanded and painted desert-tan.
Maintenance Center employees performed all the repairs that were done on the vehicles. Some of the problems the workers encountered during the restoration process called for new parts and components. Because the company is based in Scotland, receiving parts in a timely manner was difficult. An Aardvark's senior engineer provided onsite technical assistance to Maintenance Center employees fabricating the needed components to meet deadline.
The company that created the MK3s also manufactured D7G flails and tractor protective kits. The flails and kits attach to a D7 bulldozer to make it a landmine-clearing device, similar to a MK3. A D7G flail is an armored plate backing and rotating apparatus with 72 chains similar to that on a MK3. Each armored protective kit fits over the cab of the dozer to protect the operator.
The Maintenance Center is also servicing three D7G flails and kits that will be sent out with the MK3s. Two have been already been refurbished and a third is in the repair process.
The final D7G flail is in the finishing stages of being rebuilt, but the workers are still waiting for certain parts to be shipped from Scotland. The tractor protective kits are in tough shape and still need work to ensure the Marines operating the D7 mine-clearing units are safe. Since it may take a while to receive parts for the D7 protective kits, the Maintenance Center is awaiting approval to make their own.
"One of the cabs is completely missing and the other two cabs are missing components," said Link. "We purchased a drawing package and the rights to remanufacture some of these parts to complete the cab kits."
Although many obstacles arose, the Maintenance Center workers pushed through the problems with confidence, said Link.
"We were very fortunate to have the great group of people here who worked on this vehicle [MK3]," said Link. "This is a vehicle they have never seen or worked on before."
Although these Albany workers were seeing this type of vehicle for the first time, they approached its servicing and repair process as if they had done it a million times, said Link. The workers had nothing more than the manuals that came with the MK3s to put these armored giants in mint condition. Although it was good to have paperwork to aid them, the manuals offered minimal guidance with the electrical and hydraulic systems. But with the hard work of the personnel from the different sections in the Maintenance Center coming together, the MK3s are ready to go.