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Use Of Anti-Personnel Mines By US Ground Forces

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Use Of Anti-Personnel Mines By US Ground Forces

A mine-clearing line charge being detonated during live-fire training at Fort Irwin in California, October 2016.Credit…U.S. Army photo

Written by Major A. Kovalchuk, Lieutenant V. Frolov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2019 #2, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront

In the period from the beginning of the First Word War to the present, mines of various modifications were actively used in all armed conflicts. The use of mines in modern wars and armed conflicts remains unchanged, although there are a significant number of international treaties to limit this weapon. Every year, 500-800 people are killed by mines of various types in combat operations, as well as during terrorist attacks.

According to military experts the use of existing technologies in clearing all emplaced mines in a combat position will take about 1000 years and up to $100 billion. Thus, the mine clearance operation in Kuwait, according to the Russian branch of the international organisation “International Campaign for the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines”, was the largest conducted on a commercial basis, it involved 4,000 foreign sappers, and the cost amounted to $700 million.

The Convention of Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons (hereinafter referred to as the Convention), which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects, entered into force in 1983. Protocol II to the text of this document restricts the use of this type of weapons and defines the terms “mine” and “remotely placed mine”, but there is no clear distinction between anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines.

The Protocol regulated the use of this type of weapon in international conflicts, while the majority of victims affected by it were internal, religious and inter-ethnic conflicts. In addition, the document regulates the selectivity of actions and the time of the active state after their installation.

In December 1998, the Supplementary Protocol II entered into force, which has so far been supported by 102 states. These included Israel, India, China, and Pakistan, which did not accept the original Protocol II.

The new document included detailed definitions of anti-personnel mines, booby traps, remote controls and other terms, and more strictly regulated the requirements for the design and use of this type of weapon, including self-neutralisation and self-deactivation mechanisms for remotely placed mines. The transfer and export of these weapons to parties not bound by the provisions of the above-mentioned Protocol was prohibited.

At the initiative of Canada, the Ottawa process for a total ban on the production, storage, export and use of anti-personnel mines was launched in October 1996. It was attended by 50 host states and 24 observer countries with the active support of non-governmental organisations, including the International Red Cross. The initiators included: developed western countries interested in carrying out humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in “hot spots”; developing states that suffer most from the use of mines in internal conflicts and need assistance in clearing their territories; neutral countries that do not produce anti-personnel mines.

In December 1997, at the final conference in Ottawa, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction (hereinafter referred to as the Convention), was signed by representatives of 122 countries and entered into force in 1999.

As of September 2018, 135 states out of 163 participating countries have ratified the Convention and another 28 have acceded to it.

This document allows participating countries to leave a limited number of prohibited anti-personnel mines for training of mine clearance specialists, but it is not specified. By 2015, 69 signatories to the Ottawa Convention had kept more than 227,000 anti-personnel mines from destruction.

In 2016, it was reported that 71 state parties “retained” 158,776 mines. Finland, Turkey and Bangladesh (over than 10 thousand anti-personnel mines each) did not dispose of the greatest amount of ammunition. 73 countries participating in the Convention decided to completely dispose of all mines in 2017.

The bulk of them were retained for mine clearance training, and as of 2017, they were in five countries: Brazil, Turkey, Algeria, Bangladesh and Sweden. By 2018, 86 countries had disposed of all mines.

The United States has not used anti-personnel mines since the 1991 Gulf War and has not exported them since 1992, remaining the largest sponsor of mine clearance programmes in the world.

However, the US has more than 10.5 million units of stockpiled anti-personnel mines in warehouses.

In 2004, the United States introduced a local regulation similar to the Convention called the “National Agreement on the Use of Landmines”. The limitations of the “National Agreement on the Use of Landmines” and at the same time the need for their use forced the United States to use remotely operated mines.

Use Of Anti-Personnel Mines By US Ground Forces

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Non-lethal ammunition is generally used against groups of people. The main stopping factors are the blast wave and physical impact, and rubber balls are used as striking elements. The discharge of this weapon involves various options (controlled, unmanaged) for installation on the ground. Controlled execution allows reducing the risk of civilian casualties. The first of these mines was the anti-personnel M-7 “Spider”, which provides for self-destruction at the end of the combat service life.

The M-7 mine works up to 30 days from one replaceable set of batteries. During active operation, it continuously transmits an encrypted signal about its location to operators through the global positioning system (GPS) equipment. This makes it possible to quickly locate and retrieve unused ammunition. Moreover, as soon as the battery runs out, the mine is automatically deactivated. Even if the mine is not removed, it will not pose a danger, including to the civilian population, after the end of hostilities in the territory where these weapons were installed.

When bringing the M-7 into combat position in its control unit, the period of action is set, at the end of which it must be deactivated. This type of mine can be equipped with both live and non-lethal charges. It will also not work independently if it was previously activated in semi-automatic mode (in this case, the detonation is performed on command after confirmation by the operator).

Use Of Anti-Personnel Mines By US Ground Forces

Click to see the full-size image

The M-7 “Spider” mine consist of six rechargeable launchers mounted on a single hull, which automatically fires off fragmentation ammunition with a 60º sector of destruction. Shrapnel and non-lethal charges, such as sticky gel or neutralising gas, can also be used as striking elements.

The M18 “Claymore” anti-personnel mine can be used in conjunction with it to increase the survivability of mine-explosive barriers.

The use of “Spider” mines is carried out as follows: the munition is placed in a place where it can provide the maximum area of impact, then the container automatically fires a set of six sensors-alarms, made in the form of small wires of a certain length – one for each charge.

The operator monitors and manages the minefield from a portable multimedia console at a distance of up to 4 km. After one of the sensors reacts, the device sends a signal to the operator, who gives the command to detonate one or more (all) charges.

Thus, despite a significant number of international agreements prohibiting the use of anti-personnel mines, this type of weapon continues to be actively used in modern armed conflicts. Any state that seeks to develop its armed forces considers it necessary to have such weapons in its arsenal. The United States has achieved the greatest results in this area.

An example of such developments is the M-7 “Spider” mine; its use does not violate international agreements or allow compliance with some of their main provisions, without causing a public outcry in the world community.

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