MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
An obstacle, as described by the student guide for obstacle breaching, is anything that gets in the way, impedes, obstructs, or hinders movement. They can be natural, man-made or both. A popular form of breaking many of these obstacles is the M58, a rocket-propelled line of explosives containing just short of a ton of C4.
Improvised explosive devices are a steady threat to both mounted and dismounted troops serving in Afghanistan. These roadside bombs can be made to any size, be nearly undetectable to mine sweeping equipment, and create an explosion large enough to split an armored vehicle in half. The M58, or Mine-Clearing Line Charge, is a detonation system that fires a rocket pulling a string of C4 into an area laden with IEDs, booby traps and even hostile enemies, clearing a path for ground troops to more safely move into the area.
The rope holding the C4 is 100 meters long, laced with five-pound bricks of C4 every six inches, equaling 1,750 pounds of explosives. They are carried by a five-inch MK 22 Mod Four Rocket that acts like a workhorse, according to Cpl. Charles Smith, an Assault Breaching Vehicle commander from Ellerbe, N.C. The rocket pulls the whole line assembly the length of the rope, which is 100 meters of explosives and 60 meters of slack, to put distance between the explosion and the vehicle launching the MCLC. The snap of the rope as it reaches the end of its length arms the explosives, which can then be detonated by a Marine within the vehicle that launched the charge. The blast completely clears a 100 meter long route that is between 14 through 16 meters wide, depending on terrain conditions.
The charge can be launched from several vehicles, including the Assault Breacher Vehicle and the Amphibious Assault Vehicle, or towed into position by a trailer.
Ultimately, the design of this heavily explosive piece of equipment is to detonate all explosives within its blast radius.
In August 2011, the Musa Qal’eh District in Helmand province, Afghanistan, was faced with a situation where one of the local bazaars, or marketplace, was so heavily laden with IEDs the engineers with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, assisted by the Republic of Georgia’s 33rd Light Infantry Battalion, fired 35 MCLCs throughout the bazaar after relocating the area of its inhabitants. The area was reduced to fine, talcum like dust approximately 14 inches deep.
“We, as engineers, have done everything we can to ensure the bazaar is clear of IEDs,” said 1st Lt. Chase Wheeler, the executive officer of Company C, shortly after the detonation. “By doing this our way, we are being safe (and) taking care of the IED threat.”
The area was cleared with the consent of its inhabitants who were tired of conducting business in such a dangerous environment.
The charge can also inspire a shock and awe effect to the enemy combatants in the area, tilting the combat situation in favor of the Marines and creating a foothold for ground troops to insert into a combat situation.
“In Now Zad, (Afghanistan), we actually dropped it into a city to breach the grounds,” Smith said. “It shocked and awed the city and blew a hole in the city for the (infantry) to go in. We drop it into hostile grounds, and it disorients the enemy. It will kill anyone really close and disorient the rest so the ground forces can move in.”
The versatility of the MCLC allows it to be utilized in a number of combat situations. From land to sea, anywhere a trailer can be towed or an AAV can float, nothing is safe from the devastation of the MCLC and its powerful blast.