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21/05/21: MENZI MUCK / Case Study: With the walking excavator on the via ferrata

The mountain pioneers need special equipment for use in difficult terrain. At the beginning of December, the soldiers of Mountain Engineer Battalion 8 from Ingolstadt received a new excavator for this purpose. Now the spider-like vehicle has proven itself in action on the mountain.

The core task of the mountain pioneers is to enable their own troops to move and to inhibit enemy troop movements. The battalion prepares the battlefield so that its own troops can defend, attack or dodge in a targeted manner. Extreme weather and risky gradients: In the mountains, this job is a special challenge. In military operations in particular, the troops must be able to operate independently, i.e. independently of civilian supporters, and be able to sustain themselves. Therefore, at the beginning of December 2020, Mountain Pioneer Battalion 8 from Ingolstadt received one of two M545 x walking excavators delivered to the German Armed Forcesby the Swiss company Menzi Muck. After the introduction of the unusual-looking machine, the mountain pioneers had to test the walking excavator tactically. A team of five from the battalion was on the road in Berchtesgadener Land at the beginning of May and tested the walking excavator with the support of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief ( THWtechnical aid organization) Berchtesgadener Land branch and the military technical service center for protection and special technology ( WTDMilitary Technical Service52) including the Pidinger via ferrata in the Chiemgau Alps.

It doesn't matter whether it's a Puma infantry fighting vehicle or a mountain pioneer's walking excavator: During a deployment test, all equipment is assessed in various operational scenarios to determine whether it meets the requirements of the troops.

A perfect duo: excavators and mountain pioneers

The walking excavator fits perfectly into the special skill profile of the 23rd Mountain Infantry Brigade - i.e. fighting in difficult to extreme terrain, including great heights and under extreme climatic and weather conditions. The special feature: Because of its special chassis, the walking excavator can be used in difficult terrain without causing major damage to the ground. “The excavator has four independently driven wheels. This gives him very good walking ability in steep terrain, similar to a spider," explains Oberstabsfeldwebel Thomas Bielecki from the staff of Mountain Engineer Battalion 8 and project officer for this tactical deployment review.

Help from THW

Due to the lack of experience with the device, Bielecki contacted the THW at the beginning of this yeartechnical aid organizationon. “The colleagues from THWtechnical aid organizationhave had sound experience with the walking excavator of a similar type for several years. They supported us with the tactical deployment test at the beginning of May in Berchtesgadener Land with experienced walking excavator operators, who stood by us with advice and action," the project officer continues. For example, two operators from THWtechnical aid organizationin a quarry how the mountain pioneers can work most efficiently and safely with the machine in difficult terrain.

Also efficient in the water

In addition, the team of five mountain pioneers visited together with experienced walking excavator drivers from THWtechnical aid organizationalso the WTD during the tactical mission testMilitary Technical Service52 in Oberjettenberg. Here, on May 5th and 6th, deep wading with the walking excavator in the in-house wading basin of the WTDMilitary Technical Service52 checked. The dredger can be used in waters up to a depth of 180 centimetres. In addition, the walking possibilities of the excavator in a stream were tested on the premises of the department. The good fording ability of the excavator further increases its range of uses, especially in rugged terrain traversed by water.

The practical test in the mountains

The excavator was then subjected to practical tests during road construction in the difficult terrain. The five mountain pioneers and THWtechnical aid organizationrepaired the rescue route of the mountain rescue service on the Pidinger via ferrata on the north side of the Hochstaufen with two walking excavators, widened the path and removed ledges. This not only improves the rescue route for the mountain rescue service, but also facilitates the supply route for any repair work on the via ferrata. “Through the support of the THWtechnical aid organizationand the WTDMilitary Technical Service52 the mountain pioneers have gained a lot of practical experience in handling the device. The support work on the rescue route on the Pidinger via ferrata will probably continue on May 26,” estimates Sergeant Major Bielecki.

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