Ukraine has used donations to purchase an Armtrac 400, a large demining vehicle that will be critical to keeping people safe in regions abandoned by the Russian military.
An Armtrac 400 is a massive armored tractor with a 10-foot-long scoop on the front that’s filled with blunted teeth spinning on hydraulic rotors. As the machine moves forward, it scoops up the earth, and when it encounters a mine or another explosive, the force of the spinning teeth detonates it. There’s a cab on the machine where a rider can sit, but Ukraine’s Armtrac 400 can be operated remotely.
As the Russian military has fled parts of Ukraine, it’s left behind unexploded munitions and mines. Clearing out these explosives is critically important for returning things to normal in a war zone.
“Each day, bomb technicians of the State Emergency Service defuse between 1,000 to 1,500 munitions. First of all, the Armtrac 400 will help us save the lives of civilians and the lives of rescuers who are constantly at risk of being blown up by mines during their work,” Serhiy Kru, head of the State of Emergency Service of Ukraine, said in a press release about the Armtrac 400. “Now people who have to clear huge areas of the Kharkiv region from mines will get an effective assistant.”
Wars leave behind munitions that can last decades. “One year of war equals 10 years of demining,” Oleksii Dokuchaev, the commander of a demining operation in Kharkiv told the Associated Press. “Even now we are still finding munitions from World War II, and in this war they’re being planted left and right.” In the United States, bomb squads have come out to detonate unexploded munitions from the Civil War as recently as 2022.
Clearing out these munitions is a laborious process that can last generations. Mines, in particular, are cruel and deadly weapons because they can remain under the ground for decades, waiting for a civilian to wander across them. Thousands of people die or are maimed by landmines every year.
The easiest and cheapest way to clear landmines is to send in a team of people with metal detectors and sticks. It’s dangerous work, but it’s what Ukrainians have been doing in Kharkiv since retaking the region from Russia. Animals are also great at sniffing out munitions. In Cambodia, a bomb-sniffing rat named Magawa saved untold lives. In Ukraine, a Jack Russel terrier named Patron has sniffed out more than 200 explosives. The Armtrac 400 will make the work faster and much less dangerous.
An Armtrac 400 costs roughly half a million dollars and Ukraine raised the money through donations via United 24, a government-backed donation platform. The problem of mines in Ukraine will persist for decades, and the country wants to purchase another demining vehicle. You can show your support by purchasing stamps on Amazon that feature the bomb-sniffing dog Patro.