Mines: how they work, and equipping and training issues

Demining and BAC

There are many definitions of mines but to get an idea of what it means to people in the demining industry then the following sums it up quite well;

“A mine is an explosive munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be actuated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person, land vehicle, aircraft or boat including landing craft.”

Mines are as diverse by nature as are the locations in which they have been deployed around the world.

Demining can be broken down into two sectors; military and humanitarian. The purpose of mines is inherently military, to hinder mobility by area denial. Military mine ‘clearance’ thus aims essentially to clear a safe path through the minefield and regain mobility as soon as possible. Due to the nature of military operations, clearance procedure prioritises speed, and it is accepted that the method will not clear all mines; there will likely be casualties.

Humanitarian demining differs from ‘clearing’ because it is not conducted in a combat setting. Speed is not prioritised, rather the opposite, as operations are designed to be ‘exhaustive’ in terms of clearing all the mines. Demining can be a vital precursor for other humanitarian operations in post-conflict areas. Though mines are military in purpose, in a post-conflict setting, their effect is far wider and extends beyond physical injury. Mines can obstruct economic activity by preventing people from going about their livelihoods and stifle development.

Mine mechanisms are as varied and ingenious as are the numbers of different mines that exist. Understanding the types of mines that will be encountered in a demining operation is of course important for the man ‘on-the-ground’ but is also an important detail for all other strata of the operation. This is because the specifications of the mines in question can influence the shape of the operation quite profoundly.

Mines essentially target people or vehicles. Anti-personnel mines kill or maim people by either the blast or shockwave, or by penetrative damage from fragmentation. Anti-personnel mines can be omnidirectional, or indiscriminate, or they can be directed. Anti-tank mines is a term that refers to a mine that targets any kind of vehicle and not as the name suggests, only tanks. Such devices aim to immobilise the vehicle by either disabling it or by destroying it. As such, their impacts are referred to as Mobility-Kill (M-Kill) or Catastrophic-Kills (K-Kill) respectively.

Basic Mine Mechanism Principle

Basic Mine Mechanism Principle

To the right is an image of the generic principle of a mine function. This greatly simplifies the diverse and complicated mechanisms of mines but is a valuable demonstration of the multiple constituents of a generic mine. The fuze includes the firing mechanism and safety devices. This can include the sensor or this can be separate. The fuze recognises the target, either intelligently or by design (such as applied pressure), and initiates the explosive train in order to detonate the main charge.

C-IED, IEDD, Search and Weapons Intelligence

C-IED is a relatively new term that has been coined and developed during the GWoT. In the past, IED’s were used by indigenous criminal and terrorist groups with some spread of technology but were used in relatively small numbers. The campaign by Irish nationalist groups, such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), in Northern Ireland is a case in point. In more recent campaigns, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where the conflict was more that of an insurgency, the IED has become the weapon and tactic of choice, used in ever greater numbers, to cause casualties to coalition forces, whilst reducing the casualties of the insurgents, which would lose the fight in any symmetrical battle due to our technological edge.

To protect the security forces against the increased use of IED’s, forces are trained from the early stages of their careers, through pre deployment training to constant refresher training during operations in all necessary skill sets: counter insurgency mission planning, urban and rural patrolling, vulnerable point (VP) search, patrol search,5 and 20 m checks isolation drills, suicide devices, insurgent tactics and weaponry (including IED’s), vehicle check points (VCP’s), medical and EOD reporting, mine awareness, the use of Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and incident management. The ethos of C-IED is to prevent casualties by thorough training, to protect our forces by providing them with the right equipment to mitigate IED effects, to detect IED’s before they have detonated with the right tactics and search equipment and finally to exploit the information presented by recovered devices and other forms of intelligence, which in turn, leads us to develop tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP’s) that help us prevent, protect, detect and exploit!

As part of the protect field we have the skill of IEDD, which is where the EOD operator uses specific equipment and knowledge to ‘disrupt’ the IED and tries to safely recover as much of the component parts (in the form of evidence)as possible to feed into the intelligence chain. Where as an EOD operator dealing with conventional ammunition has a recognised fusing system and munitions to deal with and thereby has a standard Render Safe Procedure (RSP), the IEDD operator has to assess the IED he faces and create his own and unique RSP to match the unique device. To protect the operator, he generally wears a protective suit and where possible uses remote means (robotics) to disrupt the device. However, in assault IEDD, where the operator is seamlessly integrated into a Special Forces (SF) assault team, the use of the suit and robotics is inappropriate and therefore specialist training is required.

Another sub field of IEDD is that of CBRNe. This is where chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material is used in an IED instead of purely HE and fragmentation. In some cases these devices would have to be dealt with by assault IED forces, especially if they were located in a non permissive environment. Again, the skills and equipment used to safely disrupt these types of devices is very specialist and requires intensive and long term training.

Weapons Intelligence (WIS/WTI/WIT) is the term generally given to those forces, concerned with post attack scene investigation. Made up of IEDD operators, intelligence and police personnel, their job is to collect components or even complete IED’s and, once rendered safe, ensure they are exploited for any intelligence, which is then fed into the ‘lessons learned’ domain where it influences future friendly TTP’s and equipment acquisition.

Posted: 9 April 2013 by Optimal Risk Administrator | with 0 comments