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Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention), which was signed by 122 countries in Ottawa, Canada, on December 3, 1997, and entered into force in March 1999. As of September 2000, 139 nations had signed the Ottawa Convention, including all NATO member states, except the United States and Turkey, and all European Union member states, except Finland. The Ottawa Convention bans the use of all APL,2 whether used alone or in mixed systems, including those that are self-destructing and self-deactivating.3 Signatories are prohibited from developing, producing, acquiring, or stockpiling APL, as well as assisting, encouraging, or inducing anyone else to undertake these actions. All APL currently held by signatories must be destroyed within four years of the signing.

Despite showing early support for a ban on APL and taking the lead in efforts to ameliorate residual effects, the United States did not sign the Ottawa Convention. President Clinton stated that the United States would consider acceding to the convention when alternative technologies that provide capabilities similar to those of APL have been identified and fielded. He also announced that the United States would undertake an active research and development program to find such alternatives. At the same time he established the presidential policy that after 2003, the United States would no longer use pure APL4 outside Korea, where landmines are considered particularly important. If alternatives for Korea and for mixed systems can be found by 2006, the president said, the United States will sign the Ottawa Convention. In the meantime, the United States has destroyed three million nonself-destructing mines.


In 1997, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) began the task of developing alternatives to APL. DOD initially adopted a two-track approach. Track I, led by the U.S. Army, was a search for alternatives to the nonself-destructing landmines used in Korea. Track II, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program, was focused on an assessment of long-term, more technologically advanced alternatives that would effectively prevent access to an area. In 1999, Congress provided funds to add a third track. The goal of Track III, which overlaps both Track I and Track II, is to find existing and new technologies and operational concepts that can provide an equivalent to the capabilities of (1) nonself-destructing APL; (2) APL used in mixed AT mine systems; and (3) current mixed landmine systems, including AT mines with antihandling devices.

The National Academies

As part of the Track III initiative, DOD contracted with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study of existing and new technologies that might provide an alternative to APL. In response, the Committee on Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines was established. The committee was asked to (1) identify and examine possible tactics, technologies, and operational concepts that could provide tactical advantages similar to those provided by APL by 2006; (2) suggest a near-term alternative technology, weapon system, or combination of systems that could be derived from known, available systems or that could provide a short-term solution if the recommended alternative will not be available by 2006; and (3) describe how the identified technologies and systems could be used consistently with current tactical doctrine and operational concepts or recommend changes in tactics or operational concepts. This report is the result of that study.

Political Context for the Study

The committee was asked to consider alternatives that would provide tactical advantages to U.S. forces similar to those provided by APL. The committee also recognized that it had an opportunity to recommend alternatives, especially improved sensors and communications that would be more militarily effective than current APL. However, considering the presidential policy and official statements regarding APL, the committee recognized that one reason for the search for alternatives was to enable the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention. The committee made no judgment as to whether the United States should accede to the Ottawa Convention.

Conclusion 1. The major reasons for seeking alternatives to current antipersonnel landmines (APL) are humanitarian concerns, compliance with the Ottawa Convention, and enhanced military effectiveness. Indeed, this study would not have been empanelled were it not for the Ottawa Convention. The current inventory of self-destructing and self-deactivating U.S. APL is militarily advantageous and safe. They achieve desired military objectives without endangering U.S. warfighters or noncombatants more than other weapons of war, but they are not compliant with the Ottawa Convention. However, humanitarian concerns and Ottawa compliance are not always synonymous. In fact, some of the apparently Ottawa-compliant alternatives examined by the committee may be less humane than present U.S. self-destructing and self-deactivating landmines.

2 The convention does not prohibit command-detonated munitions, such as the Claymore, although they are customarily described as APL.

3 The negotiators did not allow for the inclusion of self-destructing and self-deactivating APL for several reasons. These mines still fit the definition of APL, and no exception were to be made. If an exception had been made for these mines, primarily in the inventory of only the United States and a few western European countries, exceptions might have had to be made for weapon systems of other countries.

4 “Pure” APL are APL used alone and not as part of a mixed system.

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