FORT HOOD, Texas - For some Soldiers, basic training included a class on the lethal M18 Claymore mine, a directional weapon, - the words "Front toward enemy" emblazoned across the face of the device. There was only one choice a Soldier could make when engaging a suspected enemy with the Claymore, and that was unleashing a devastating blast - spraying a barrage of about 700 1/8-inch diameter steel balls.

But combat engineers from the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division now have another choice. The M7 Spider, a networked mine system, gives them that choice between discharging a lethal or non-lethal charge.

Sgt. Michael Seneus, a 3rd BEB combat engineer from Brooklyn, New York, explained how each munitions control unit, a mine-like device about the circumference of a hat, gets carefully placed in the munitions field, or mine area.
It is controlled remotely by a radio control system, a box just about the size of three pizza boxes stacked on top of each other, which knows where each mine is placed.

"A lookout identifies if it's an enemy combatant, child or an animal," Seneus said. "If it's a threat, the engineer chooses to launch whatever measures are necessary."

For an enemy combatant, that means the Soldier launches a single, lethal munition. Or many.

"Each unit can hold six grenades, each of which can be launched individually 2 meters high, out 5 to 7 meters with a 10-meter blast radius, producing up to 1,400 fragments - a wall of fragments," said Joe Carr, a training instructor for the munitions new equipment training branch at the Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center in Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

One RCS can control 63 MCUs, each capable of housing six miniature grenade launchers. A single M7 Spider system is capable of launching up to 378 grenades - or a total of almost 530,000 lethal fragments - spread throughout the mine field like a spider web.

But combat engineers can also choose to load the MCUs with strategically placed miniature grenade launchers, small tube-like fixtures about 7 inches long, with non-lethal charges.

This is a 'Man In-The-Loop' dispensing set, meaning a Soldier is always in control of the choice to launch or disarm the tripped device, said Carr.

"So if you see a non-combatant in your field, say like a child, you can render the munitions control unit useless," Carr added.
"There's an option to load the MCU with a non-lethal Claymore, which discharges rubber balls instead of steel ones," said Bill Sayler, a trainer from Picatinny Arsenal.

Seneus said, "Let's say ... if it's a herd of animals hanging around, and you want them to go away, you can launch something that's non-lethal, that won't kill the animal, just to scare them and make them go away."

Saylor said, "The M7 Spider is the new alternative to anti-personnel, victim-activated, legacy land mines."

"This is the first time I've even heard of this kind of weapon," said Spc. Philip Brunet, a 3rd BEB combat engineer from Valley View, Texas."It's good that we can choose lethal or non-lethal munitions on the battle field. Makes survivability more possible for those who have no piece in the fight."

Although other brigades on Fort Hood have trained on the Spider, the combat engineers from 3rd Brigade "Greywolf" were the first on the installation to employ the miniature grenade launchers. Their training on the Spider will be complete the week ending July 18.