An anti-tank mine (abbreviated to "AT mine") is a type of land mine designed to damage or destroy vehicles including tanks and armored fighting vehicles.
A land mine is an explosive device concealed under or on the ground and designed to destroy or disable enemy targets, ranging from combatants to vehicles and tanks, as they pass over or near it. Such a device is typically detonated automatically by way of pressure when a target steps on it or drives over it, although other detonation mechanisms are also sometimes used. A land mine may cause damage by direct blast effect, by fragments that are thrown by the blast, or by both.
A tank is an armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat, with heavy firepower, strong armour, tracks and a powerful engine providing good battlefield maneuverability. The first tanks were designed to overcome the deadlock of trench warfare in the 1916s; they are a mainstay of modern ground forces and a key part of combined arms combat. Modern tanks are versatile mobile land weapon system platforms, mounting a large-calibre cannon in a rotating gun turret, supplemented by mounted machine guns or other weapons, such as ATGMs, or rockets. They combine this with heavy vehicle armour which provides protection for the crew, the vehicle's weapons, and its propulsion systems, and operational mobility, due to its use of tracks rather than wheels, which allows the tank to move over rugged terrain and adverse conditions such as mud, and be positioned on the battlefield in advantageous locations. These features enable the tank to perform well in a variety of intense combat situations, simultaneously both offensively with fire from their powerful tank gun, and defensively due to their near invulnerability to common firearms and good resistance to heavier weapons, all while maintaining the mobility needed to exploit changing tactical situations. Fully integrating tanks into modern military forces spawned a new era of combat, armoured warfare.
Compared to anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines typically have a much larger explosive charge, and a fuze designed only to be triggered by vehicles or, in some cases, tampering with the mine.
Anti-personnel mines are a form of mine designed for use against humans, as opposed to anti-tank mines, which are designed for use against vehicles. Anti-personnel mines may be classified into blast mines or fragmentation mines, the latter may or may not be a bouncing mine.
In military munitions, a fuze is the part of the device that initiates function. In some applications, such as torpedoes, a fuze may be identified by function as the exploder. The relative complexity of even the earliest fuze designs can be seen in cutaway diagrams.
While obviously the anti-tank mine as such did not pre-date the deployment of tanks in 1916, essentially identical devices were used earlier against locomotives. For example, during the U.S. Civil War, Confederate forces created pressure-activated anti-railroad mines which destroyed at least two trains.
A locomotive or engine is a rail transport vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. If a locomotive is capable of carrying a payload, it is usually rather referred to as multiple units, motor coaches, railcars or power cars; the use of these self-propelled vehicles is increasingly common for passenger trains, but rare for freight.
The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.
The Confederate States Army (C.S.A.) was the military land force of the Confederate States of America (Confederacy) during the American Civil War (1861–1865), fighting against the United States forces. On February 28, 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress established a provisional volunteer army and gave control over military operations and authority for mustering state forces and volunteers to the newly chosen Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. Davis was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and colonel of a volunteer regiment during the Mexican–American War. He had also been a United States Senator from Mississippi and U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. On March 1, 1861, on behalf of the Confederate government, Davis assumed control of the military situation at Charleston, South Carolina, where South Carolina state militia besieged Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, held by a small U.S. Army garrison. By March 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress expanded the provisional forces and established a more permanent Confederate States Army.
The first anti-tank mines were improvised during the First World War as a countermeasure against the first tanks introduced by the British towards the end of the war. Initially they were nothing more than a buried high-explosive shell or mortar bomb with its fuze upright. Later, purpose-built mines were developed, including the Flachmine 17, which was simply a wooden box packed with explosives and triggered either remotely or by a pressure fuze. By the end of the war, the Germans had developed row mining techniques, and mines accounted for 15% of U.S. tank casualties during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Third Battle of the Aisne, Battle of Selle and Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile that, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot. Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used. Originally, it was called a "bombshell", but "shell" has come to be unambiguous in a military context.
A mortar is usually a simple, lightweight, man portable, muzzle-loaded weapon, consisting of a smooth-bore metal tube fixed to a base plate with a lightweight bipod mount and a sight. They launch explosive shells in high-arcing ballistic trajectories. Mortars are typically used as indirect fire weapons for close fire support with a variety of ammunition.
The Soviet Union began developing mines in the early 1920s, and in 1924 produced its first anti-tank mine, the EZ mine. The mine, which was developed by Yegorov and Zelinskiy, had a 1 kg charge, which was enough to break the tracks of contemporary tanks. Meanwhile, in Germany, defeat spurred the development of anti-tank mines, with the first truly modern mine, the Tellermine 29, entering service in 1929. It was a disc-shaped device approximately 30 cm across filled with about 5 kg of high explosives. A second mine, the Tellermine 35 was developed in 1935. Anti-tank mines were used by both sides during the Spanish Civil War. Notably, Republican forces lifted mines placed by Nationalist forces and used them against the Nationalists. This spurred the development of anti-handling devices for anti-tank mines.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.
The Tellermine 29 is a round, metal-cased German anti-tank blast landmine. It first entered service in 1929, and the initial German defence plan was to purchase 6,000 a year, but in January 1931 it was decided to speed up the purchase process, and 61,418 were ordered. By 1937, with the introduction of the Tellermine 35, it was being used for training, and the majority were sent to warehouses.
The Tellermine 35 (T.Mi.35) was a German metal-cased anti-tank mine used extensively during the Second World War. The mine's case is made of sheet steel, and has a slightly convex pressure plate on the top surface with a central fuze well. Two secondary fuze wells are located on the side and bottom of the mine for anti-handling devices.
The Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland also saw widespread use of anti-tank mines.
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organisation.
The German Tellermine was a purpose-built anti-tank mine developed during the period between the first and second world wars, the first model being introduced in 1929. Some variants were of a rectangular shape, but in all cases the outer casing served only as container for the explosives and fuze, without being used to destructive effect (e.g. shrapnel). Tellermine was the prototypical anti-tank mine, with many elements of its design emulated in the Pignone P-1, NR 25, and M6 mine (among others). Because of its rather high operating pressure, a vehicle would need to pass directly over top of the mine to set it off. But since the tracks represent only about 20% of a tanks width, the pressure fuse had a limited area of effect.
As one source has it: "Since they were pressure-detonated, these early anti-tank mines typically did most of their damage to a tank's treads, leaving its crew unharmed and its guns still operational but immobilised and vulnerable to aircraft and enemy anti-tank weapons ... During World War II they (the Wehrmacht) began using a mine with a tilt-rod fuze, a thin rod standing approximately two feet up from the center of the charge and nearly impossible to see after the mine had been buried. As a tank passed over the mine, the rod was pushed forward, causing the charge to detonate directly beneath it. The blast often killed the crew and sometimes exploded onboard ammunition. Now that tank crews were directly at risk, they were less likely to plow through a minefield."
Although other measures such as satchel charges, sticky bombs and bombs designed to magnetically adhere to tanks were developed, they do not fall within the category of land mines as they are not buried and detonated remotely or by pressure. The Hawkins mine was a British anti-tank device that could be employed as a mine laid on the road surface for a tank to run over setting off a crush fuze or thrown at the tank in which case a timer fuze was used.
Shaped charge devices like the Hohl-Sprung mine 4672 were also developed by Germany later in the war, although these did not see widespread use. The most advanced German anti-tank mine of the war was their minimal metal Topfmine.
In contrast to the dinner plate mines such as the German Tellermine were bar mines such as the German Riegel mine 43 and Italian B-2 mine. These were long mines designed to increase the probability of a vehicle triggering it, the B2 consisted of multiple small shaped-charge explosive charges along its length designed to ensure a mobility kill against enemy vehicles by destroying their tracks. This form of mine was the inspiration for the British L9 bar mine.
Several advances have been made in the development of modern anti-tank mines, including:
More modern anti-tank mines are usually more advanced than simple containers full of explosives detonated by remote or the vehicles pressure. The biggest advances were made in the following areas:
Most modern mine bodies or casings are made of plastic material to avoid easy detection. They feature combinations of pressure or magnetically activated detonators to ensure that they are only triggered by vehicles.
There are several systems for dispersing mines to quickly cover wide areas, as opposed to a soldier laying each one individually. These system can take the form of cluster bombs or be artillery fired. Cluster bombs contain several mines each, which could be a mixture of anti-personnel mines. When the cluster bomb reaches a preset altitude it disperses the mines over a wide area. Some anti-tank mines are designed to be fired by artillery, and arm themselves once they impact the target area.
Off-route mines are designed to be effective when detonated next to a vehicle instead of underneath the vehicle. They are useful in cases where the ground or surface is not suitable for burying or concealing a mine. They normally employ a Misznay–Schardin shaped charge to fire a penetrating slug through the target armour. This self forging projectile principle has been used for some French and Soviet off route mines and has earned infamy as an improvised explosive devices (IED) technique in Israel and especially Iraq.
Due to the critical standoff necessary for penetration and the development of standoff neutralization technologies, shaped charge off-route mines using the Munroe effect are more rarely encountered, though the British/French/German ARGES mine with a tandem warhead is an example of one of the more successful.
The term "off-route mine" refers to purpose designed and manufactured anti-tank mines. Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs) are one type of IED that was used in Iraq, but most "home made" IEDs are not employed in this manner.
The most effective countermeasure deployed against mine fields is mine clearing, using either explosive methods or mechanical methods. Explosive methods, such as the Giant Viper and the SADF Plofadder 160 AT, involve laying explosives across a minefield, either by propelling the charges across the field with rockets, or by dropping them from aircraft, and then detonating the explosive, clearing a path. Mechanical methods include plowing and pressure-forced detonation and the deactivating RS36 Eggtron robot used during combat operations to protect vehicles. In plowing, a specially designed plow attached to the front end of a heavily armored tank is used to push aside the earth and any mines embedded in it, clearing a path as wide as the pushing tank. In pressure-forced detonation, a heavily armored tank pushes a heavy spherical or cylindrical solid metal roller ahead of it, causing mines to detonate.
There are also several ways of making vehicles resistant to the effects of a mine detonation to reduce the chance of crew injury. In case of a mine's blast effect, this can be done by absorbing the blast energy, deflecting it away from the vehicle hull or increasing the distance between the crew and the points where wheels touch the ground–where any detonations are likely to centre.
A simple, and highly effective, technique to protect the occupants of a wheeled vehicle is to fill the tires with water.This will have the effect of absorbing and deflecting the mine's blast energy. Steel plates between the cabin and the wheels can absorb the energy and their effectiveness is enhanced if they can be angled to deflect it away from the cabin. Increasing the distance between the wheels and passenger cabin, as is done on the South African Casspir personnel carrier, is an effective technique, although there are mobility and ease of driving problems with such a vehicle. A mine resistant vehicle can use a wedge-shaped passenger cabin, with the thin edge of the wedge downwards, to divert blast energy away from occupants. Improvised measures such as sandbags in the vehicle floor or bulletproof vests placed on the floor may offer a small measure of protection against tiny mines.
Steel plates on the floor and sides and armoured glass will protect the occupants from fragments. Mounting seats from the sides or roof of the vehicle, rather than the floor, will help protect occupants from shocks transmitted through the structure of the vehicle and a four-point seat harness will minimise the chance of injury if the vehicle is flung onto its side or its roof–a mine may throw a vehicle 5 – 10 m from the detonation point.
Anti-tank mines have played an important role in most wars fought since they were first used.
Anti-tank mines played a major role on the Eastern front, where they were used in huge quantities by Soviet troops. The most common AT mines included the TM-41, TM-44, TMSB, YAM-5, and AKS. In the Battle of Kursk, combat engineers laid a staggering 503,663 AT mines, for a density of 1500 mines per kilometer.This was four times greater than what was seen in the Battle of Moscow.
Furthermore, mobile detachments were tasked with laying more mines directly in the path of advancing enemy tanks. According to one source: "... Each artillery battalion and, in some cases, each artillery battery, had a mobile reserve of 5 to 8 combat engineers equipped with 4 to 5 mines each. Their function was to mine unguarded tank approaches after the direction of the enemy attack had been definitely ascertained. These mines proved highly effective in stopping and even in destroying many enemy tanks."
The Wehrmacht also relied heavily on anti-tank mines to defend the Atlantic Wall, having planted six million mines of all types in Northern France alone.Mines were usually laid in staggered rows about 500 yards (460 meters) deep. Along with the anti-personnel types, there were various model of Tellermines, Topfmines, and Riegel mines. On the Western front, anti-tank mines were responsible for 20-22% of Allied tank losses. Since the majority of these mines were equipped with pressure fuzes (rather than tilt-rods), tanks were more often crippled than destroyed outright.
During the Vietnam War, both 'regular' NVA and Viet Cong forces used AT mines. These were of Soviet, Chinese or local manufacture. Anti-tank mines were also used extensively in Cambodia and along the Thai border, planted by Pol Pot's Maoist guerrillas and the Vietnamese army, which invaded Cambodia in 1979 to topple the Khmer Rouge. Millions of these mines remain in the area, despite clearing efforts. It is estimated that they cause hundreds of deaths annually.
Conflict in southern Africa since the 1960s have often involved Soviet, United States or South African supported irregular armies or fighters engaged in guerrilla warfare. What makes these conflicts significant to the study of anti-tank mines is that they featured the widespread use of these mines in situations other than conventional warfare (or static minefields) and also saw the development of effective mine resistant vehicles. As a result, both Angola and Mozambique are littered with such devices to this day (as with Cambodia).
In the Angolan Civil War or South African Border War that covered vast sparsely populated area of southern Angola and northern Namibia, it was easy for small groups to infiltrate and lay their mines on roads before escaping again often undetected. The anti-tank mines were most often placed on public roads used by civilian and military vehicles and had a great psychological effect.
Mines were often laid in complex arrangements. One tactic was to lay multiple mines on top of each other to increase the blast effect. Another common tactic was to link together several mines placed within a few metres of each other, so that all would detonate when any one was triggered.
It was because of this threat that some of the first successful mine protected vehicles were developed by South African military and police forces. Chief amongst these were the Buffel and Casspir armoured personnel carriers and Ratel armoured fighting vehicle. They employed v-shaped hulls that deflected the blast force away from occupants. In most cases occupants survived anti-tank mine detonations with only minor injuries. The vehicles themselves could often be repaired by replacing the wheels or some drive train components that were designed to be modular and replaceable for exactly this reason.
Most countries involved in Middle Eastern peace keeping missions deploy modern developments of these vehicles like the RG-31 (Canada, United Arab Emirates, United States) and RG-32 (Sweden).
A high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead is a type of shaped charge explosive that uses the Munroe effect to penetrate thick tank armor. The warhead functions by having the explosive charge collapse a metal liner inside the warhead into a high-velocity superplastic jet. This superplastic jet is capable of penetrating armor steel to a depth of seven or more times the diameter of the charge but is usually used to immobilize or destroy tanks. Due to the way they work, they do not have to be fired as fast as an armor piercing shell, allowing less recoil. Contrary to a widespread misconception, the jet does not melt its way through armor, as its effect is purely kinetic in nature. The HEAT warhead has become less effective against tanks and other armored vehicles due to the use of composite armor, explosive-reactive armor, and active protection systems which destroy the HEAT warhead before it hits the tank. Even though HEAT rounds are less effective against the heavy armour of 2010-era main battle tanks, HEAT warheads remain a threat against less-armoured parts of a main battle tank and against lighter armoured vehicles or unarmoured vehicles and helicopters.
A tandem-charge or dual-charge weapon is an explosive device or projectile that has two or more stages of detonation.
The Tellermine 42 (T.Mi.42) was a German metal-cased anti-tank blast mine used during the Second World War. The mine was a development of the Tellermine 35 with improved resistance to blast. It was followed by the simplified Tellermine 43.
The Tellermine 43 was a German circular steel cased anti-tank blast mine used during the Second World War. It was a simplified version of the Tellermine 42, which enabled simpler production techniques. Between March 1943 and the end of World War II, over 3.6 million Tellermine 43s were produced by Germany. Copies of the mine were produced by several countries including Denmark (M/47), France and Yugoslavia (TMM-1).
The PMN series of blast anti-personnel mines were designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union. They are one of the most widely used and commonly found devices during demining operations.
The M15 mine is a large circular United States anti-tank blast mine, first used during World War Two. Essentially, it is a larger version of the M6A2 anti-tank mine, which it replaced. Although the M15 has been superseded by the M19 mine, the U.S. retains large stocks of M15s because they are still regarded as reliable and effective weapons. When used against main battle tanks the M15 is primarily a "track-breaker" which creates mobility kills, but has a comparatively small likelihood of causing crew fatalities. However, when used against lighter vehicles such as APCs or unarmored vehicles such as trucks the damage inflicted is much more severe.
The VS-50 is a circular plastic cased anti-personnel blast mine, formerly manufactured by the now-defunct Valsella Meccanotecnica SpA, an Italian high-tech defence industry specialized in area denial systems which was also the manufacturer of the Valmara 69 and one of the first industries in the world to implement plastic construction for landmines. The design is similar to the TS-50 and VS-MK2 mine. It is blast resistant and can be used in a minimum metal configuration. Though unlikely to kill, the explosive charge contained within a VS-50 is quite sufficient to destroy the victim's foot: the blast is capable of penetrating 5 mm of mild steel leaving an 80 mm-diameter hole.
The M7 is a small, metal-cased United States anti-tank blast mine that was used during the Second World War. It was based on the British Hawkins grenade. Approximately 2.5 million were produced before production ceased, and although it has long since been withdrawn from U.S. service, it can be found in Angola, Burma, Cambodia, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Korea, Lebanon, Myanmar, Somalia, Thailand, and Zambia.
A minimum metal mine is a land mine that is designed to use the smallest amount of metal possible in its construction. Typically, the only metal components are located inside the fuze mechanism which triggers detonation. Both minimum metal anti-tank and anti-personnel mines exist. Some designs contain virtually no metal at all e.g. less than a gram. This is achieved by encasing the explosive charge in a plastic, wooden, or glass body, with metallic components limited to the few small parts in the fuze which can not easily be made from other materials, such as the spring, striker tip, and shear pin. Minimum metal mines are extremely difficult to detect using conventional metal mine detectors and usually require modern techniques, such as robotic Multi Period Sensing (MPS) equipment, to identify, but it is still too difficult to find non-metallic mines. These techniques are usually restricted to well-funded international mine clearing organizations and major militaries, making minimum metal mines especially pernicious where they are encountered.
A Blast resistant mine is a landmine with a fuze which is designed to be insensitive to the shock wave from a nearby explosion. This feature makes it difficult or impossible to clear such mines using explosive minefield breaching techniques. As a result, the process of clearing minefields is slower and more complex. Blast resistance can be achieved in a number of ways.
The Teller mine was a German-made antitank mine common in World War II. With explosives sealed inside a sheet metal casing and fitted with a pressure-actuated fuze, Teller mines had a built-in carrying handle on the side. As the name suggests the mines were plate-shaped.
An anti-handling device is an attachment to or integral part of a landmine or other munition e.g. some fuze types found in general purpose air-dropped bombs, cluster bombs and sea mines. It is designed to prevent tampering. When the protected device is disturbed, it detonates, killing or injuring anyone within the blast area. There is a strong functional overlap of booby traps and anti-handling devices.
The TM-44 was a circular metal-cased Soviet anti-tank landmine used during the Second World War. The mine's case consisted of a short cylinder with the entire top surface being used as a pressure plate. The mine was normally painted olive drab and was broadly similar to the earlier, smaller, TM-41 mine.
The FFV 028 is a series of steel cased Swedish anti-tank mines that use electronic fuzes. The mines are circular, with a large Misznay Schardin effect warhead in the center of the mine, with the fuzing and sensor electronics located in the dead space above the main charge. The design of the mine dates from the 1970s and uses a magnetic influence sensor to detonate the mine, making it able to attack the full width of armoured vehicles.
The CC 48 is an Italian wooden cased minimum metal anti-tank mine that was used during the Second World War. The mine uses a shaped TNT explosive charge to produce a directional cutting effect. The mine uses two PMC/43 fuzes, but these can be replaced with PMC/42/2 anti-personnel fuzes, combined with weakening the lid this can make it sensitive enough to be detonated by the weight of a mine.
A tilt-rod fuze is a device used to trigger anti-vehicle landmines. Typically it consists of a vertical pole, normally around a meter high, which is connected to the top of a landmine. When the track or main body of a vehicle passes over the mine, the rod is tilted, releasing a spring-loaded striker which triggers a pyrotechnic delay of approximately half a second, followed by detonation of the main explosive charge. The small time delay allows the vehicle to continue over the mine before detonating, exposing more of it to the blast. A tilt-rod fuze has a number of advantages over pressure fuzes - it acts across the entire width of a vehicle, rather than just its tracks or tires. This allows it to attack the vehicle's belly and potentially cause a catastrophic kill. Additionally, tilt rod fuzes tend to be resistant to blast overpressure clearing methods, which can trigger most pressure fuzes.
The TMK-2 is a Soviet steel cased anti-tank mine. It uses a tilt-rod fuze combined with a shaped charge to attack the belly of vehicles as they pass over the mine. It was originally designed in 1955, but is now obsolete. The mine consists of a case shaped like two truncated cones joined at the base. The MVK-2 tilt rod assembly is held to one side of the mine. The lower truncated cone contains the main charge, and dished metal charge liner.
A grenade is an explosive weapon typically thrown by hand, but can also refer to projectiles shot out of grenade launchers. Generally, a grenade consists of an explosive charge, a detonating mechanism, and firing pin inside the grenade to trigger the detonating mechanism. Once the soldier throws the grenade, the safety lever releases, the striker throws the safety lever away from the grenade body as it rotates to detonate the primer. The primer explodes and ignites the fuze. The fuze burns down to the detonator, which explodes the main charge.
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