A landmine is an explosive device that is designed to destroy or damage equipment or personnel. Equipment targets include ground vehicles, boats, and aircraft. A mine is detonated by the action of its target, the passage of time, or controlled means.
There are two types of land-based mines-- anti-tank (AT) and anti-personnel (AP).
AT mines are designed to immobilize or destroy vehicles and their occupants. An AT mine produces a mobility kill (M-Kill) or a catastrophic kill (K-Kill). An M-Kill destroys one or more of the vehicle's vital drive components (for example, breaks a track on a tank) and immobilizes the target. An M-Kill does not always destroy the weapon system and the crew; they may continue to function. In a K-Kill, the weapon system and/or the crew is destroyed.
AP mines can kill or incapacitate their victims. The mines commit medical resources, degrade unit morale, and damage nonarmored vehicles. Some types of AP mines may break or damage the track on armored vehicles.
By Alex Ward, writing for Vox on 30 January 2020 reported that under an internal State Department cable obtained by Vox, Trump rescinded President Barack Obama’s 2014 directive to no longer “produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines,” known as APLs, which are small explosive devices placed under, on, or near the ground. The cable also lifted the Obama administration’s restriction on deploying landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula.
Under Trump’s new policy, the US military can use landmines anywhere, including in “future potential conflicts”. The cable states “The United States will not sacrifice American service members’ safety,” “particularly when technologically advanced safeguards are available that can allow landmines to be employed responsibly to ensure our military’s warfighting advantage, while also limiting the risk of unintended harm to civilians.” The cable notes that the US will continue to “prohibit the use of any ‘persistent’ landmines” that don’t have a self-destruct or self-activate function.
Before World War II, countries began developing mines to counter the effectiveness of tanks, the trench-busting vehicles that altered how land wars were fought. By the end of the war, roughly 300 million mines, each filled with powerful, lightweight trinitrotoluene (TNT), were used to destroy enemy tanks. The biggest drawback of the mines, however, was that opposing forces could easily swoop in before they detonated and use them against the tanks of the very same army that positioned them there first. To counter this phenomenon, countries began encircling their anti-tank mines with anti-personnel mines-the type of mines still used today by poor countries. Today, despite advances in mine-detecting technology, the United States government is still searching for more accurate methods in locating visible and buried enemy mines.
US mine warfare has undergone a remarkable transition in the last 30 years. The U.S. inventory of old-fashioned "dumb" mines has been significantly reduced and their use restricted. The most modern mines in the US inventory all possess self-destruct or self-neutralization features, they cease to function at predetermined times. These mines lose the ability to inflict casualties once their military utility on the battlefield is gone.
Mines are intended to produce an obstacle effect on enemy maneuver and reduce his options for courses of action when he attacks. Unlike other obstacles, however, mines can inflict casualties, just as other weapons of war do.
New, smaller, lightweight, more lethal mines are now providing the capability for rapid emplacement of self-destructing anti-armor (AT) and AT/antipersonnel (AP) minefields by a variety of delivery modes. These range form from manual emplacement to launchers on vehicles and both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.
Even more radical changes are coming in mines that are capable of sensing the direction and type of threat. These mines will also be able to be turned on and off, employing their own electronic countermeasures to ensure survivability against enemy countermine operations.
Land mines cause about 26,000 casualties worldwide every year. Although most of these casualties are the result of the indiscriminate and irresponsible use of mines, they have caused antipersonnel (AP) mines to be severely stigmatized by the international community. As a leader of the "responsible" international community, the United States has chosen to pursue the regulation of AP mines. In setting a standard that we hope others will follow, the President announced a significant change in US policy for AP mines on 16 May 1996. The US unilaterally undertook not to use, and to place in inactive stockpile status with the intent to demilitarize by the end of 1999, all nonself-destructing AP mines not needed to train personnel engaged in demining and countermine operations, and to defend the United States and its allies from armed aggression that crosses the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
The US views the security situation on the Korean Peninsula as a unique case and in the negotiation of this agreement will protect the right to use AP mines there until alternatives become available or the risk of aggression has been removed. This policy eliminated the use of M14 blast AP mines and M16 bounding fragmentation mines outside the Republic of Korea. It did not affect the use of self-destructing mines or command-detonated weapons (M18 claymore).
The use of antipersonnel landmines (APL) can be traced to World War II when they were developed for use in antitank (AT) minefields to discourage foot soldiers from disabling AT mines. Unfortunately, even when used according to the generally accepted doctrine of marking and recording, these non self-destructing APL continued to pose hazards long after the end of the conflict. Although the U.S. has since adopted self-destructing and self-deactivating landmines, the increased cost has limited their use to only NATO allies and a few other countries. Because the bulk of the mines still in use around the world are neither self-deactivating nor self-destructing, the humanitarian consequence of deploying these mines has led to an effort to achieve a global ban on APL.
In response to this effort, Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 48 announced a new APL policy. The Directive allowed the U.S. to keep its mixed antitank (AT), self-destructing mine systems and directed the Department of Defense to develop and field alternatives to pure APL systems throughout the armed forces. The APL Alternatives program began as a two-track approach. A second directive, PDD 64, provided additional direction for mixed systems and added a third track to the program.
Track 1 RADAM is an effort to redesign, repackage, and retrofit our current mixed (antitank and antipersonnel) scatterable artillery-delivered mines into a single round to be called the Remote Area Denial Artillery Munition (RADAM). Track 1 NSD-A is involved with development and implementation of non-self destructing alternative (NSD-A) to meet the requirements currently met by our antipersonnel landmines. Track 2 is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency effort to investigate innovative maneuver denial approaches that may take advantage of advanced technologies. Track 3 explores a wide range of materiel and operational concepts as alternatives to AP submunitions within mixed systems and to all mixed systems.
This three-track approach to develop antipersonnel landmine alternatives is on going. The goal is to enable the U.S. to be in a position to sign the Ottawa Convention banning APLs if suitable alternatives can be identified and fielded.
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