In the post-war period, the Giant Viper rocket launcher was created in the interests of the Royal Corps of Engineers of Great Britain. This product perfectly coped with its tasks and showed high performance, which allowed it to remain in service for several decades. However, over time, such installations became obsolete morally and physically, as a result of which they required replacement. In the past decade, the development of reactive demining units has continued, resulting in the Python product.
The Giant Viper mine clearing unit was distinguished by its simplicity of design and uncomplicated principles of operation. The wheeled trailer housed a box for "ammunition" and a launcher. With the help of a solid-propellant rocket, a flexible elongated charge was thrown into the minefield, the explosion of which cleared a passage up to 180-200 m long and several meters wide. It should be noted that such a principle of combating mine-explosive obstacles was proposed during the Second World War, but the first installation was not distinguished by safety, and therefore it was used very little. In the new project, the Giant Viper managed to solve the main problems of its predecessor.
Trojan AVRE engineering tank with Python installation in tow
As the service continued, the installation of the Giant Viper underwent several upgrades, which consisted of replacing certain components. However, this process could not continue indefinitely, and at the beginning of the last decade, there was a request for the creation of a completely new demining installation. However, the terms of reference for the new project provided for the use of a tried and tested operating principle.
In fact, the Corps of Royal Engineers wanted to get an analogue of the existing machine, but originally made using modern materials and technologies. This made it possible to launch the production of new equipment at the existing enterprises with obtaining optimal performance characteristics. The main technical and combat characteristics could remain at the same level as the previous model.
A new version of the mine clearance installation was developed by the British company BAE Systems. This project, like its predecessor, received a "snake" name - Python ("Python"). Once again, the name was chosen with an eye to the shape of the elongated charge. Moreover, there was a reason to talk about the formation of a peculiar tradition of naming engineering equipment.
Extended Charge Box
According to the BAE Systems project, the new demining system in terms of its overall appearance was supposed to be similar to existing products. At the same time, it was decided to modify some units of the installation using new materials or design solutions. Due to this, some operational advantages were obtained.
Like the previous model, the new "Python" is built on the basis of the simplest wheeled trailer platform. At the same time, it was decided to use a trailer design similar to the later modifications of the Giant Viper. The previous sample initially had a single-axle chassis and needed supports, and then it was equipped with an additional axle, which simplified operation in general and preparation for firing in particular. In addition, the trailer was rebuilt using some semblance of a modular principle.
The basic element of the Python system was a simple platform built on the basis of a frame made of metal profiles. In front of the platform, a triangular towing device with a set of cables and connectors for connecting to a towing vehicle was located. The central part of the frame is responsible for transporting the "ammunition". On the sides of it there are small areas for calculation. At the rear of the platform, a support was placed with a launcher for a towing rocket.
The design of the end of the charge containing the fuse
The Python platform received an interesting chassis. On each side of the trailer, there were two wheels of small diameter, interlocked with a longitudinal balancer. The balancer is fixed on a support under the platform and has a spring suspension. The abandonment of the previously used axles made it possible to increase the clearance of the trailer. In addition, the biaxial product can stand horizontally without additional supports. The system has one spare wheel at its disposal. It is proposed to be transported in front of a box with an extended charge - on a towing device.
The Giant Vyper unit had its own metal or wooden box for transporting an extended charge. In the development of the Python system, this device was abandoned. Instead, there is a large rectangular seat on the platform. It is proposed to install a closing box with a charge on it. When preparing for a new salvo, this box is accordingly removed, and a new one is put in its place. Thus, the crew does not have to move a rather heavy sleeve with explosives from one box to another.
At the rear of the trailer there is a rigid trapezoidal support on which the launcher is fixed. Modern technology has made it possible to create a more advanced towing rocket, which, among other things, led to the use of a new launcher for it. A vertical aiming mechanism with a launching guide for the rocket is placed on a rigid support. The guide is made in the form of a set of four longitudinal rods connected by several rings. Above and below the guide is partially covered with sheet-covers. In the transport position, the guide is installed strictly horizontally, which reduces the height of the entire product. Before shooting, it rises to a predetermined elevation angle.
The process of mounting a box with a charge on a launcher
The development of rocketry, which took place in recent decades, has made it possible to develop a new efficient towing vehicle. The Python installation uses the L9 solid rocket, which has a simplified design. The rocket received a body in the form of a cylinder with a diameter of 250 mm. Product weight - 53 kg. Reactive gases are ejected through a pair of oblique tail nozzles, which rotate and stabilize the rocket in flight. Between the nozzles at the rear end of the rocket there is an attachment for the towing cable of the extended charge. The rocket engine is launched on command from the control panel due to an electrical impulse.
The extended charge for the Python has also been redesigned to reflect the progress made. The 228 m long hose is made of polymer fiber, which is characterized by high strength and low weight. Inside such a shell is placed a charge in the form of 1455 kg of explosive of the PE-6 / AL type. The characteristics of the explosive allow the elongated charge to bend freely enough in any direction. The ends of the charge are equipped with modern types of fuses that provide detonation on command.
According to the developer, the extended charge of the new model is safe. A bullet or shrapnel hit can leave a hole in the outer shell and damage the inner explosive, but detonation of the latter is excluded. In addition, single damage to different sections of the charge does not lead to a drop in the strength of the structure and the impossibility of full use. Even a damaged sleeve can leave the box, fly after the rocket, and land on a minefield.
The Python Extra Long Charge uses a metal cable several meters long to tow the L9 rocket. It is also equipped with a longer cable designed to limit the flight range. In order to avoid entanglement during storage and transportation of the charge, this cable is rolled up and fixed with a disposable sheath. In addition, it is housed in a separate torn-open container at the bottom of the closure.
Python's reactive mine mine is almost the same size as its predecessor. The total length of the product does not exceed 4-5 m with a width of no more than 2.5 m and a height of about 2.5 m. The net weight of the installation, without a rocket and an extended charge with a box, is only 136 kg. In the combat position, the mass of the complex reaches 1, 7-1, 8 tons.
The towed unit can be used in conjunction with any tractors. In practice, they are used with Trojan AVRE. "Python" must go directly behind the armored vehicle, which can drastically reduce the time to prepare for a shot, as well as protect it from shelling from the front hemisphere. After preliminary preparation, shooting with an elongated charge can be carried out immediately upon reaching a given position.
Launching a towing rocket
The relatively small size and weight of the mine clearing plant led to interesting possibilities. An engineering armored vehicle can simultaneously tow more than one trailer with an extended charge. In this case, the Python installations are connected in a train, one after the other. In this case, separate control of launches is possible. Thus, at the disposal of military engineers there are several elongated charges at once, which can be used sequentially and without returning to the rear for "recharging".
According to the principle of operation, the modern "Python" is no different from the old installation of the Giant Viper. After reaching the firing position, the calculation gives the command to launch the rocket. That, taking off, pulls a tow rope, to which an elongated charge is attached. After leaving the closure, the charge begins to pull out the restrictive cable, which was previously in its own container. This cable provides stowage of the charge at a given distance from the launcher. After the charge falls to the ground, an explosion occurs. If necessary, you can connect two charges in series, resulting in a sleeve with a length of 456 m.
According to official data, the detonation of an extended Python charge provides damage with the incapacitation or activation of 90% of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines in an area at least 180 m long and at least 7, 3 m wide. This passage is sufficient for use by people and equipment. The sequential use of several charges in one area allows you to create wider or longer passages - depending on the parameters of the minefield and the specifics of the operation being carried out.
Extended charge before falling to the ground
In the middle of the 2000s, BAE Systems submitted for testing a new type of experimental equipment and the first batch of extended charges for it. Inspections at the proving ground showed that in terms of fighting qualities, the promising Python installation is at least not inferior to its predecessor. In addition, certain advantages over him have been confirmed. The installation received a positive recommendation, and soon entered service with the Corps of Royal Engineers.
The simplicity of the design made it possible in just a few years to produce the required number of towed installations, with the help of which the rearmament was carried out. In the shortest possible time, the outdated Giant Viper installations were decommissioned, and new Python ones came in their place. Initially, such a technique was used only in exercises, but soon it was attracted to solving real combat missions.
In 2009, the 28th Engineering Regiment, equipped, among other things, with Trojan AVRE armored vehicles and Python demining rocket launchers, went to Afghanistan to work as part of the international coalition. In February of the following year, these samples took part in Operation Moshtarak. There were minefields on the way of the advancing troops, which should have been defused in the shortest possible time. To solve such problems, the Python installations were thrown. The Royal Engineers successfully coped with their work and ensured the speedy exit of other units to the designated areas.
According to various sources, in the future, British military engineers had to eliminate the enemy's mine-explosive barriers several times in different regions of Afghanistan. In all cases, the Python system has proven its characteristics. It has proven to be an effective means of destroying anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices. As far as is known, demining installations were used only for their intended purpose. Elongated charges were not used as engineering ammunition for the destruction of any structures, as was the case with foreign weapons of this kind.
Several years ago, BAE Systems carried out an upgrade of the Python system, aimed primarily at improving performance and combat qualities. First of all, the designers replaced the old explosive in the charge with the new ROWANEX 4400M mixture, which made it possible to increase the resistance to damage. The design of the sleeve and its equipment has also been improved. Since 2016, the army has been receiving extended charges of an improved version. Providing an increase in performance and efficiency, such charges remain fully compatible with existing installations.
The Python demining rocket launcher entered service with the British army not so long ago, but has already managed to completely supplant the older and less advanced models of its class. As tests and application in real operations have shown, such a system does an excellent job of its duties and deservedly takes its place in the fleet of equipment of the Royal Engineers Corps. The specificity of the use of such products is such that they can maintain the required potential for a long time. Thus, it is quite possible that the Python installation - like its predecessor - will last for many more years and will retire no earlier than the middle of the century.