AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector

The eight pound AN/PSS-14 Mine Detecting Set uses advanced electronics incorporating decades of lessons learned about the business of finding hostile mines. Still, it is conceptually very similar to the first electronic mine detector, the SCR-625 developed during World War II.

Staff Sgt. Louis Britton, a squad leader from Co. C, 65th Eng. Bn., with an AN/PSS-14 mine detector at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, 11 December 2003
Staff Sgt. Louis Britton, a squad leader from Co. C, 65th Eng. Bn., with an AN/PSS-14 mine detector at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, 11 December 2003.

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AN/PSS-14 Mine Detecting Set Development

The AN/PSS-14 Mine Detecting Set began development as the Advanced Mine Detector (AMD). The AMD Operational Requirements Document set forth the performance criteria for a battery-operated, hand-held mine detection device consisting of an electronics control unit with an integrated power supply, processor, radio frequency (RF) antenna, and a hand-held wand with sensor and controls. The AMD combines metal detection and ground-penetrating radar to detect all known metallic and low-metallic landmines. AMD is a replacement for the AN/PSS-12 metallic mine detector, which uses only metal detection technology.

The AN/PSS-14 was accepted as the material solution to the AMD operational requirements. The fielding of 78 AN/PSS-14s took place in February 2004, after being identified as an urgent requirement for Operation Iraqi Freedom. By mid-2006, over 2,000 of these detectors were deployed with Army and Marine Corps Combat Engineer units in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, replacing their AN/PSS-12s. About 17,000 AN/PSS-14 Mine Detecting Sets were ordered from CyTerra Corp., Waltham, MA, the sole-source contractor for the AN/PSS-14.

AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector Description

The AN/PSS-14 Mine Detecting Set weighs approximately eight pounds with its standard NiMH batteries. The self-contained handheld mine detector system is operated by a single soldier. It is a dual sensor system, consisting of a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and improved Metal Detector (MD) whose readings are combined by an internal computer with detection algorithms in software. This provides a greatly enhanced capability over the AN/PSS-12 or earlier fielded detectors.

The AN/PSS-14 detects the full spectrum of land mines including metallic, low-metallic and non-metallic mines of all fuse types and in all soil types with a detection probability of over 95 percent. The hardware and software combination in the AN/PSS-14 reduces false alarms much more effectively than with any prior mine detecting equipment.

The AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector in Use

The AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector is an object detector, not just a mine detector. When something is detected below the surface, the AN/PSS-14 emits a series of beeps, producing what engineers call a "sound image" of the object. Trained soldiers know what an object in the ground is before they see it.

Soldiers work as a team. The AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector operator is followed closely by a second soldier who marks the cleared terrain with spray paint tick marks, flags or tape.

Several operational issues with the AN/PSS-14 have to be addressed by proper training and operating discipline:

  • As with any mine detector that includes metal parts, it is possible for the AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector to trigger magnetically fused mines;
  • Headset volume has to be adjusted to the individual user's tolerance -- higher volume levels may damage hearing;
  • A work cycle has to be established to prevent operator loss of sensitivity to AN/PSS-14 tones;
  • The unit's NiMH batteries have to be handled and desposed of according to regulations;
  • AN/PSS-14 Mine Detectors must maintain an operational spacing of at least six meters between units to avoid loss of function;
  • AN/PSS-14 Mine Detectors must not operate in close proximity to SINCGARS radio sets to avoid loss of radio transmitting range;
  • The AN/PSS-14 GPR processor must be retrained for changed soil conditions;

USMC Moves Beyond the AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector

AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector with Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance technology
AN/PSS-14 Mine Detector with Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance technology.

In May of 2006, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) demonstrated at Fort A.P. Hill an advanced version of the AN-PSS-14 that incorporates Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance (NQR) technology to provide the next step in mine detection. This device uses sensors that can detect chemically unique explosive signatures from buried plastic case anti-tank and anti-peronnel mines. The unit combines NQR with the AN/PSS-14 mine detector to maintain a high probability of detection with significantly lower false alarms.

The USMC will buy up to 444 AN/PSS-14 units as an interim solution until the NQR technology-based detector set developed by ONR is available.

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