Value of Antipersonnel Landmines in Unprotected Mixed Minefields
As described in Chapter 3, one of the uses for APL is to protect AT mines from dismounted enemy soldiers who could manually disable or move the unprotected antitank mines (i.e., breach the minefield) and allow vehicles to pass through the minefield. Breaching operations are defined as operations that allow maneuvers to continue despite the presence of obstacles. Obstacle breaching is the use of a combination of tactics and techniques to advance an attacking force to the far side of an obstacle that is normally covered by fire. Obstacle breaching is perhaps the single, most difficult combat task a force must perform.
Breaching is a synchronized combined-arms operation under the control of a maneuver commander. Breaching operations begin when friendly forces detect an obstacle and begin to apply breaching fundamentals, and they end when battle handover has occurred between the follow-on forces and the unit conducting the breaching operation (U.S. Army, 2000). See Box D-1 for a more complete explanation of breaching.
Modern, remotely delivered, U.S. AT mines remain on the ground surface, in most cases, clearly visible, to an approaching enemy. By doctrine, direct-fire and indirect-fire weapons are the most effective deterrents to enemy breaches, but tactical minefields are often beyond the range of observers and protective fire, especially in economy-of-force sectors. Under these circumstances, APL are perceived to be particularly valuable in slowing the advance of dismounted enemy forces.
This perception was called into question in the course of this study, and the committee concluded that the data used to validate the effectiveness of APL in breaching operations should be updated. Only one document available to the committee, the final report from the Modeling and Analysis Group, APL Alternatives Study, found in the Examination of the Battlefield Utility of Antipersonnel Landmines and the Comparative Value of Proposed Alternatives, contained analytical data (Greenwalt and Magnoli, 1997). That report concluded that the use of APL with trip wires significantly increases the time required to breach a minefield. Up to 80 minutes was attributed to the trip wires.
However, the committee noted that the report scenario was based only on the use of hand-thrown grapnel hooks1 to clear trip wires. The study did not describe or analyze other possible methods of clearing trip wires, such as the launched grapnel hook and man-portable projected line charges (e.g., the Small Projected Line Charge [SAPLIC]) or the Antipersonnel Obstacle Breaching System [APOBS]).
The U.S. Army's launched grapnel hook, based on technology available on the commercial market, was tested, type classified, and fielded in 1995. According to the manufacturer it takes about 30 seconds to put the launched grapnel hook into operation and fire it (telephone conversation between Mr. Steve Adleman, SAA International, LTD. and Richard Johnson, member of the Committee on Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines, April 24, 2000). It may take up to two minutes to retrieve the device, depending on terrain and foliage, and it is desirable to make at least two passes to ensure that all of the trip wires are cleared. Thus, it would appear that using a launched grapnel, a soldier could clear trip wires in about five minutes.
According to Jane's Mines and Mine Clearance, Fourth Edition, 1999, man-portable projected line charges are manufactured in many countries and are available on the world market (Jane's, 1999). A projected line charge can cut trip wires, clear a narrow path immediately under the deployed line charge, and leave a trace on the ground to use as a guide while the breach lane is cleared. According to the manufacturer2 of the SAPLIC, a one-man-portable projected line
1 Use of the grapnel is the only unique task in breaching an AT minefield containing APL with trip wires; all other steps in breaching an AT minefield are identical regardless of its composition.
2 The Ensign-Bickford Company, Simsbury, Connecticut, manufactures SAPLIC and a larger man-portable line charge, APOBS. Both systems are capable of cutting trip wires and clearing breach lanes during tactical assaults.
Fundamentals of U.S. Breaching Operations
Suppress, obscure, secure, reduce, and assault are the breaching fundamentals that must be applied to ensure success when breaching against a defending enemy. These fundamentals will always apply, but they may vary based on the specific battle-space situation (mission, enemy, terrain, troops, time available, and civilian considerations).
Suppress - Suppression is a tactical task used to employ direct or indirect fires or an electronic attack on enemy personnel, weapons, or equipment to prevent or degrade enemy fires and observation of friendly forces. The purpose of suppression during breaching operations is to protect forces reducing and maneuvering through an obstacle.
Obscure - Obscuration must be employed to protect forces conducting obstacle reduction and the passage of assault forces. Obscuration hampers enemy observation and target acquisition and conceals friendly activities and movement. Obscuration smoke deployed on or near the enemy's position minimizes its vision. Screening smoke employed between the reduction area and the enemy conceals movement and reduction activities. It also degrades enemy ground and aerial observations. Obscuration must be carefully planned to provide maximum degradation of enemy observation and fires, but it must not significantly degrade friendly fires and control.
Secure - Friendly forces secure the reduction area to prevent the enemy from interfering with obstacle reduction and the passage of the assault force through the lanes created during the reduction. Security must be effective against outposts and fighting positions near the obstacle and against overwatching units, as necessary. The far side of the obstacle must be secured by fires or be occupied before attempting any effort to reduce the obstacle. The attacking unit's higher headquarters has the responsibility to isolate the breach area by fixing adjacent units, attacking enemy reserves in depth, and providing counter fire support.
Reduce - Reduction is the creation of lanes through or over an obstacle to allow an attacking force to pass. The number and width of lanes created varies with the enemy situation, the assault force's size and composition, and the scheme of maneuver. The lanes must allow the assault force to rapidly pass through the obstacle. The breach force will reduce, proof (if required), mark, and report lane locations and the lane-marking method to higher headquarters. Follow-on units will further reduce or clear the obstacle when required. Reduction cannot be accomplished until effective suppression and obscuration are in place, the obstacle has been identified, and the point of breach is secure.
Assault - A breaching operation is not complete until friendly forces have assaulted to destroy the enemy on the far side of the obstacle that is capable of placing or observing direct and indirect fires on the reduction area and battle handover with follow-on forces has occurred (if desired).Source: U.S. Army, 2000.
charge capable of clearing a path up to 80 meters long, the setup and employment time is no more than 60 seconds. Other devices listed in Jane's should have similar employment times.
Considering the confusion and other conditions on the battlefield, the so-called “fog of war,” it would probably take longer to use a launched grapnel or a man-portable line charge in a real engagement than in an operational test. To compensate for the inherent confusion of combat, the committee notionally doubled the times claimed by the manufacturer and concluded that APL would provide, at most, approximately 10 minutes of additional protection for AT mines, if the enemy forces were properly equipped. In fact, the greatest time advantage provided by APL would be during a dismounted breach conducted under fire. In this situation, however, protective fires would cause a much greater delay than the APL.
1997. Examination of the Battlefield Utitity of Antipersonnel Landmines and the Comparative Value of Proposed Alternatives. Livermore, Calif.: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory., and .
1999. Mines and Mine Clearance, 4th ed., Surrey, U.K.: Jane's Information Group..
2000. Combined Arms Breaching Operations Field Manual 3-34.2. Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army..