Common anti-personnel mines

The inherent difficulty of mine clearance is compounded by the great variety of mines in use--more than 700 types are known. Here are examples of frequently encountered mines. Pictures and descriptions are from the report Landmines: Time for Action, (not copyrighted), document 0574/002 published 3/95 by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. This document is available in German, French, and English.

[Download image] Originally developed in World War II, the PMD-6 antipersonnel mine is a rudimentary pressure-activated blast device in a wooden box. It has been widely used in Cambodia. As wood rots, the mine mechanism may shift, and the device often sets itself off or becomes inoperative.

The most prevalent of the conventional landmines are the so-called blast mines. They rely upon the energy released by the explosive charge to harm their target, and are normally buried by hand or placed on the ground. The injuries they produce result primarily from the explosion, but secondary fragmentation injuries are possible as the mine casing or surrounding dirt or gravel is blasted at the victim. Most depend on blast alone for their effectiveness, since the target generally needs to come in contact with the mine to set it off.

[Download image] The MON-50 antipersonnel mine is a Soviet version of the American M-18 Claymore, a directional fragmentation mine. The curved plate is filled with pellets or projectiles in front of the explosive charge. It can be mounted against a round surface such as a tree or can be placed on a small stand-alone stake. Preformed metal fragments of selected shapes and sizes are shot out by the blast at a high velocity over a predetermined arc. Sometimes described as the military equivalent of the sawn-off shotgun, the widely copied American M-18 Claymore mine contains 700 steel balls and can kill targets up to 50 metres away. Other types can kill people as far away as 200 metres. Directional fragmentation mines are often planted around foxholes or used against convoys, and can sometimes be activated by a simple remote-control switch.

[Download image] Widely used in Afghanistan, the Soviet PFM-1 scatterable pressure-sensitive blast mine is also known as the "butterfly mine" because of its shape, which unfortunately attracts children who think it is a toy. It has been produced in various shades of brown, green, and white. The PFM-1S version of this mine is one of the rare designs which include a self-destruct mechanism. It explodes 24 hours after deployment.

[Download image] Three types of ignitors, which may be used with tripwires or with pressure-activated systems.

[Download image] The OZM-4, a metallic bounding fragmentation mine. A bounding fragmentation mine is designed to kill the person who sets it off and to injure anybody nearby by propelling fragments. The cylindrical mine body is initially located in a short pot or barrel assembly; activation detonates a small explosive charge, which projects the mine body upwards. As it "bounds" into the air, the mine is activated by an anchor cable secured to the barrel assembly which remains on the ground; the cable pulls a pin from the fuse on the mine's body. The resulting blast scatters fragments, some of which may be preformed, over a much wider radius and area than would be possible with a surface or buried mine of similar size.

[Download image] The PMN mine contains a large amount of explosive, and the injuries it inflicts are often fatal. It is designed in such a way that it is practically impossible to neutralize. As a safety precaution for those laying this mine, a 15- to 20- minute delay mechanism is activated when the mine is armed.

[Download image] The irregular shape and small size (about 9 cm diameter) of the BPD-SB-33 scatterable antipersonnel mine make it particularly hard to locate. A hydraulic antishock device ensures that it cannot be detonated by explosions or artificial pressure. It is also exceptionally light, and can thus be carried and deployed in extremely large numbers by helicopters.

[Download image] This Vietnamese antipersonnel mine is about the size of a tennis ball, and can be mounted on a stake for use with a tripwire or buried just below the surface and set off by pressure.

[Download image] There are numerous variations of the PMR-2A or POMZ-2 antipersonnel stake mines, which are generally planted in clusters or rows of at least four units and are set off by an intricate system of tripwires.

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by John Walker