Improvised Explosive Devices - IV: IEDs & Mines

29 Feb, 2000    ·   333

Mallika Joseph explains the similaritiea and differences between the IEDs and landmines

The IED is more close to the mine in its technology, detonation and damage caused than any other device in the family of military ordnance. Despite the ingenuity that goes into its assemblage, most IEDs end up resembling some type of standard mine. However, it needs to be explored whether types of mines and minefields have inspired militants to assemble and use IEDs like wise, or whether the similarity is just coincidental.



Mine warfare involves three traditional types of mine laying: tactical, protective and phony. However, also used during warfare are “nuisance” minefields that include random mining, booby-trapping, placing off-route mines and delivery of scatterable mines. Mastered by the Germans, these techniques came to be used by insurgent and guerrilla groups after World War II. It basically involved placing mines “in the verges of roads, or amongst rubble of demolished bridges or in farmyards that could be used as vehicle harbour areas”. An analysis of present day use of IEDs in Kashmir and Hyderabad display application of same techniques - of placing IEDs in vehicle harbour areas, roads and bridges. 



Mine technology developed from the simple pressure initiated mines of World War I to specific Soviet ‘remotely-armed mines of World War II’. The remote controlled mines were generally triggered by use of switch mechanism, and the more sophisticated remotes included use of cable or radio signal. Similar development can be traced with the IEDs with the simpler ones involving the use of battery to the sophisticated ones being detonated through radio signal or wireless sets. The remote controlled mines were specifically used for closing minefield gaps or minefield lanes in the traditional minefield layouts and in selective ambushes. Since ambush is a crucial tactic of the NSAs, they seem to have developed a keen interest in remote controlled mines/IEDs. Other developments in mines that have found their way to the IEDs are mechanisms found in AT4 LAW attached with remote wire that is produced in Sweden . The ‘adder’ produced by Huntington Enterprise in UK is more advanced and is comparable with the IEDs. However, IEDs have gone a step further and improved the ‘accuracy’ of the remote control, which was basically the drawback of ‘adder’.



Another semblance that the IEDs find with mines is the utility of off-route mines (ORM). ORMs or horizontal acting mines were initially perceived to as “stand-alone, ambush weapon”. They were generally placed in a “side-street or alleyway to fire on to a main road, or placed in the blind side of a bridge or underpass to attack traffic coming through”. IEDs function in a similar manner and certain NSAs have constructed an IED almost identical to the ORM in technique. The naxals in Hyderabad assembled IEDs in empty tube-light cases and laid them alongside a road that was mined to ensure that this could target anyone attempting to avoid the road. 



ORMs are not favourite weapons of mine warfare, because of certain inherent impediments. However, the NSAs have overcome these obstacles and have attuned the IEDs as the perfect weapon of ambush. ORMs are short-range weapons – the person initiating the blast needs to be in the vicinity. This applies to IEDs also, but only to an extent: while the general range for the ORM to initiate (through trip wire or break beam) is 40 meters, IEDs are known to have the capacity to be triggered even at a distance of 200 meters and more. Secondly, setting up an ORM is time consuming; conversely IEDs take very little time for assemblage. Thirdly, the lethality of the ORM was always in doubt, as the fuse-explosive compatibility did not offer the desired yield. IEDs on the other hand are renowned for their lethality and sure targeting. 



If IEDs are similar to mines why not use mines instead? The answer is simple. Mines are part of military ordnance and it is unlikely the NSAs will have access to them unless they are supported by an outside State. Of the NSAs in India only the Kashmir militants are known to have access to conventional mines: many Pakistan Ordnance Factory made anti-tank and anti-personnel mines have been recovered from these militants.  The NSAs also to not possess surplus resources at their disposal to designate portions of it for manufacturing mines. Secondly, the lethality of the IED is much more that that of a conventional anti-personnel mine. Thirdly, the IED is target specific which offers the NSA the flexibility of use. Using traditional mines would restrict the already restricted movement of the NSA as much as it attempts to curtail the movement of the security forces. Conventional minefields require a fire cover to prevent breaching and enable the mines to function for the purpose they were laid for. Conversely, IEDs require no fire cover as once the target is near the device, the IED is set off.  While mines are basically defensive weapons, with the exception of scatterable mines that are occasionally used for offence, IEDs are weapons of offence and are best suited for ambush and other tactics of guerrilla warfare and insurgency.