Land Mines

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mines, Land


a combat weapon (special ammunition) de-signed to destroy enemy manpower and equipment and to demolish roads and various structures for the purpose of reducing the rate of advance of enemy troops and complicating their maneuver. A mine consists of a charge of explosives, an activating (response) device, a fuse, and a case (metal, wood, plastic, etc.). Some types of mines may be made without casing. To ensure safety in mine laying and to make it more difficult for the enemy to find and disarm mines, additional devices may be included in a design, such as locking keys, elements that make it difficult to extract the mine, and self-destruct units.

Field charges have been used since ancient times. Land mines developed further with the appearance of high explosives and the invention by Russian engineers of the electrical (P. L. Shilling, 1812) and chemical (S. P. Vlasov, 1815) methods of fusing. During the defense of Sevastopol’ (1854—55) the Russian forces successfully applied stone fougasses exploded by electrical means. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 self-exploding fougasses (prototypes of modern antipersonnel mines) were used extensively, and during the defense of Port Arthur bounding shrapnel antipersonnel mines designed by Karasev were employed. In World War I (1914–18) all the warring armies had land mines. During the war the Russian military engineers Dragomirov, Revenskii, and Saliaev proposed designs for antitank mines. D. M. Karbyshev played a large part in the development of antitank mines and procedures for using them in battle. During World War II (1939-45) land mines were used on a vast scale. The total number of mines laid by the warring countries on the Soviet-German front alone was more than 200 million.

Depending on the design of the activating mechanism, land mines are classified as impact mines, which explode when the activating mechanism is directly affected (by pressure or stress) by a tank, vehicle, or person, and proximity mines, which explode when the activating mechanism is affected, for example, by vibration or change in the intensity of the earth’s magnetic field. A distinction is made between independent and controlled mines. Independent mines explode automatically when the object to be destroyed affects the activating mechanism and fuse (the mine must first be made live). Controlled mines or minefields are exploded from a command post by means of wire or radio or are timed to explode using mechanical devices. Mines may be designated as antitank, antipersonnel, antitransport, object, and special mines. The armed forces of the USA, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and some other countries have special mine-laying vehicles for mechanized mine laying. Some types of mines can be laid by means of aircraft or artillery and rocket systems.

Antitank mines may be directed specifically against the tracks, the bottom, or the sides. Some types of mines have charges whose explosions break the tracks of the tank or pierce its bottom. Most common during World War II were antitrack mines with charges of 3–10 kg.

Antipersonnel mines strike enemy manpower by means of the shock wave (high-explosive mines) or shrapnel that is propelled from the case of the mine in the form of pellets, cylinders, arrows, or fragments that form when the case is shattered (fragmentation mines). The charge of a high-explosive mine contain 30–200 g of explosives; fragmentation mines contain 75 g-5 kg of explosives. The fuses most commonly used are activated by pressure or stress; they may also be activated by both. Artillery shells adapted to explode are sometimes used as antipersonnel mines. Antipersonnel mines are also used to set up booby traps.

Antitransport mines are designed for mining motor vehicle roads, railroads, and airfields. The charge of the mine may be intended not only to destroy the means of transportation but also to demolish the road. The mines become live after a certain (set) time and explode when their sensitive elements are affected by means of transportation passing over them. Object mines are designed to destroy bridges, tunnels, and other structures. They are set inside the object being demolished in special mine wells (chambers) or in the ground. Special mines are highly specialized types of ammunition (magnetic and signal mines, for exampie).


Ivolgin, A. I. Razvitie i primenenie minnopodryvnykh sredstv, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1956.
Pliaskin, V. Ia., I. F. Lysukhin, and V. A. Ruvinskii. Inzhenernoe obespechenie obshchevoiskovogo boia. Moscow, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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