|The Fight Against Antipersonnel Mines (EC, 1997, 108 p.)|
Historical Development of Mines
Confederate Army mines in 1862 were artillery shells converted by hand. Even so, they already exhibited all the characteristics of land-mines: casing, plus main charge, and a pressure-firing device (in the form of a copper dome, which would be squashed by the weight of the target) in place of the artillery fuse. The German antitank mines of 1918 were also made by greater or lesser alteration of other kinds of explosive device- mainly demolition charges, known as «mines», used for die sapping or undermining of enemy constructions.
· The inter-war years were those during which mines as we know them today made their appearance. A key-date in this development would be that of 1929, the year in which the Germans adopted the Tellermine 29, an antitank mine with a 4 or 5 kg explosive charge. Although this charge was adapted to the needs of antitank warfare, the Tellermine 29 could in fact be fitted with 3 different types of firing device: antitank pressure firing devices, antipersonnel pressure firing devices or antipersonnel trip-wire firing devices. The antipersonnel function was aimed at hindering the work of mine-clearance operators. This original model still underlies the design of many antitank mines today; its charge was excessive for antipersonnel applications.
· At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, antipersonnel mines were not common; the German Command, however, very quickly came to feel the need for them. Although Germany had been a very minor antipersonnel mine producer, the German Army, between 1939 and 1944, developed most of the various types of mine known: the stake-mine (or «Stockmine», in German), die bouncing mine («S» mine), the antipersonnel pressure mine (the wooden «Schumine» and the glass «Glasmine») and even air-to-land scatterable mines (the «SD2») and undetectable Bakelite models.
Both the Allies and the other Axis countries copied these German antipersonnel mines in large numbers, often indeed increasing their already formidable capacity: tanks remained the principle targets for land-mines. Moreover, in most of the armies involved in the World War, mine-laying was confided to fairly big special units, which, operating as they did from lorries, were not troubled by the considerable weight of the devices (which tended to be of several kilos). During the '50s, the spread of plastic materials, originally employed in order to make mines undetectable, brought about a profound transformation in their production, enabling as it did the manufacture of smaller devices having a strictly antipersonnel purpose. The weight of these mines was much reduced, so that foot-soldiers were able to carry several of them without any real loss of mobility.
The whole attitude to mines was changed by these developments, and mines came to be part and parcel of all infantry combat units' supplies. The NATO antipersonnel mines (the American M14 and the French APDV 59) were smaller and with a much smaller charge than those of the Warsaw Pact forces (the Soviet PMN and the East German PPM).
· The Vietnam War (1964-1975) witnessed the putting into practice of two new concepts in tine field of mine deployment:
Their experience during the Korean War (1950-1954) led the Americans to develop a directional mine, the Claymore Ml 8. First used in South East Asia during the War, it has since been very widely copied. These relatively heavy directional mines were first of all designed for the protection of posts; basically remote controlled, they were also often fitted with trip-wire firing devices.
In the South East Asia, the Americans also deployed scatterable mine systems- first using a copy of the German SD2, and then developing a completely new device, the little BLU 43 or «Dragon's Tooth», which the Soviet forces were to copy with their own PFM or «Butterfly mine», made wide scale use of in Afghanistan during the 1979-1988 war there. These mines could only be deployed by means of air-to-ground scattering.
· In the early '70s, there appeared the first antipersonnel mines which could be deployed either by automatic scattering or else by hand-laying (the Chinese «Type 72» or the Italian VS 50/TS 50). These devices are compact, for container transportation, and reversible, so as to remain effective, and are of course easy to handle and low-cost (at 2 ECU per «Type 72») being as they are always sold in bulk lots. This modem kind of mine is very often difficult if not actually impossible to neutralize, their low cost making re-usable design superfluous. They also exist in an «anti-lift» version, outwardly indistinguishable from others.
· During the 1980s and '90s, electronic firing devices and die progress in military electronics in general have made possible the development of new kinds of sensors for mine-activation, be it acoustic, seismic or magnetic. Current research in the mine development field has thus come to focus on tire enhancement of target-data collection and analysis. The guarantee, or at least the hope, that the device might not be able to be set off by a non-military target such as a passing civilian, has led to the design of highly expensive «smart» systems which certain experts would distinguish from «dumb» mines. Such smart mines are not the preserve of die European theatre: they have already been deployed in Angola.
· Mines of the Future: For the very near future, the first anti-helicopter mines equipped with high precision sensors will soon be coming on to the market, promising a short-to-middle-term deployment of very sophisticated systems.