News: Ground piercing radar guides New Boston UXO crews
NEW BOSTON AIR FORCE STATION, N.H. - Unexploded ordnance removal teams at New Boston Air Force Station are using a new tool in their mission to rid the station of decades-old bombs, rockets and other potentially hazardous material.
The 23rd Space Operations Squadron has partnered with the Strategic Environmental Research Development Program in a project that should help reveal the identity of objects while they're still underground.
Since July, the SERDP team has been conducting a "metal mapper" test demonstration, the first on an Air Force site, which is designed to differentiate between UXO and cultural debris below ground. If proven, this technology will significantly reduce the number of holes that have to be dug when anomalies are identified during UXO clearing.
"We want to be more efficient in our clearing efforts," says Jeff Oja, 23rd SOPS restoration program manager. "Fortunately, we may have found some new technology that's going to help that effort."
Scientists with SERDP are using what's known as a Time-Domain Electromagnetic Towed Array Detection System. Basically, it's ground penetrating radar that can detect whether an item is unexploded ordnance or simple debris.
Oja explained that the significance of this new technology may not be apparent to some, but all people need to consider is how previous UXO clearing efforts were conducted.
In 2010 for example, NBAFS unexploded ordnance teams dug up 7,800 items while conducting a sub-surface clearing project. A grand total of seven of those items were revealed to be unexploded ordnance. The majority, however, were random debris, such as bullet fragments, machine parts, scrap metal and junk.
"Using the TEMTADS, we'll know before we dig. It's going to save us a lot of time, money and manpower because we won't be digging up horseshoes," Oja said.
Since 2003, the Air Force has been clearing the land, some 2,826 acres, of unexploded ordnance because Army Air Corps and Navy pilots used this slice of New Hampshire countryside for target practice between 1942 and 1956.
They dropped bombs, fired rockets and strafed the area with machine-gun fire. The Air Force assumed control of the land in 1959 and the installation was officially renamed New Boston Air Force Station in 1960 when it transitioned to a space-operations mission.
"We've put in a lot of work," Oja said. "During phase three of the clearing project, contractors and 23 SOPS personnel removed 80 live UXOs and more than 40 tons of munitions related debris on the area's surface."
Phase four of the UXO clearing project began in July and will continue through September. Army Corps of Engineers and contract crews will sub-surface clear 30 acres of recreational and operational areas, 10 miles of dirt roads and two ponds [nine acres] with the hope of opening additional recreation areas to Department of Defense cardholders.
"We are delighted by the potential of new technology to assist us in effectively and efficiently clearing UXOs with minimal impact to environment," said Lt. Col. Sarah Jackson, 23 SOPS commander. "The SERDP technology demonstrator is promising. This effort, coupled with the Army Corps of Engineers efforts, is a cornerstone to our opening a larger portion of the installation for recreational purposes, and much anticipated reopening of our FAMCAMP area and fishing at Joe English Pond to DOD cardholders."