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Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines (2001)

Chapter: 2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines

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Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.

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National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines

...among the most deplorable developments...are (1) extensive use of antipersonnel mines in the conflicts in Chechnya and Kosovo, especially by Russian and Yugoslav forces, and (2) continued use of antipersonnel mines by treaty signatory Angola, and likely use of antipersonnel mines by treaty signatories Burundi and Sudan. (Human Rights Watch, 2000)

Current national security and potential warfighting environments are complex and are expected to become even more so. Although the United States is nominally at peace, large numbers of U.S. forces are currently deployed around the world, either as deterrents to aggression or as peacekeepers. This chapter describes the international environment through the lens of planning documents used to prepare for an event or series of events in which U.S. military power will have to be used. Even though landmines, which are essentially tactical weapons, are seldom mentioned, a description of these documents will provide the reader with an idea of situations in which mines would be used. The chapter begins with descriptions of current strategies, such as the national security strategy, the defense strategy, and efforts by various military services to implement these strategies. This is followed by the views of some of the U.S. commanders responsible for protecting U.S. interests abroad. Also described are the technological opportunities provided by the ongoing revolution in military affairs. The chapter concludes with a brief description of the benefits and vulnerabilities of several advanced technology concepts.


The strategies described below provide a context for how APL may be used in the future. The committee reviewed many strategy documents and was briefed by several military leaders on how future operations might be conducted. In addition, the committee met with representatives of the National Security Council and the U.S. Department of State.

A National Security Strategy for a New Century

Every year, as required by law, the president issues a national security strategy defining the United States' vital national interests and how they should be protected. In December 1999, President Clinton issued his annual update, A National Security Strategy for a New Century, which describes anticipated threats to the United States. The strategy's core objectives are to enhance America's security, bolster America's economic prosperity, and promote democracy and human rights abroad. The president stated that “arms control and nonproliferation initiatives are an essential element of our national security strategy,” and the strategy referred specifically to APL:

[The United States is] committed to ending the threat to innocent civilians from antipersonnel landmines (APL). The United States has already taken major steps toward this goal while ensuring our ability to meet international obligations and provide for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform. President Clinton has directed the Defense Department to end the use of all APL, including self-deactivating APL, outside Korea by 2003 and to pursue aggressively the objective of having APL alternatives ready for Korea by 2006. We will also aggressively pursue alternatives to our mixed anti-tank systems that contain antipersonnel submunitions. We have made clear that the United States will sign the Ottawa Convention by 2006 if by then we have succeeded in identifying and fielding suitable alternatives to our self-deactivating APL and mixed anti-tank systems. (White House, 1999)

The national security strategy envisions that the U.S. military will be faced with an array of threats to our interests, including direct threats to the continental United States, small-scale contingencies, major theater wars, terrorism, cyber attack, information operations, and the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Department of Defense Strategy

In his 1999 Annual Report to the President and the Congress, the secretary of defense affirmed the value of a strong military, stating that the essence of the U.S. defense strategy between now and 2015 will be shaping the international security environment, responding to the full spectrum of crises, as required, and preparing now for an uncertain future (DOD, 1999).

Echoing presidential concerns about current instability and anticipating the advantages that will accrue from U.S. scientific and technological superiority, the secretary of defense stated:

The fundamental challenge confronting the Department of Defense is simple but daunting. U.S. armed forces must meet the immediate

Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.

Page 20

demands of a dangerous world by shaping and responding throughout the next 15 years, while at the same time transforming U.S. combat capabilities and support structures to be able to shape and respond effectively in the face of challenges in the future. (DOD, 1999)

To carry out its strategy, the DOD will take the following actions:

  • Pursue a focused modernization program to replace aging systems and incorporate cutting-edge technologies to ensure continued U.S. military superiority.

  • Continue to exploit the revolution in military affairs to improve the U.S. military's ability to perform nearterm missions and meet future challenges.

  • Exploit the revolution in business affairs to reengineer DOD's infrastructure and support activities.

  • Ensure against unlikely, but significant, future threats so that risk in a resource-constrained environment can be managed effectively, and position the military to respond quickly and effectively to new threats as they emerge.

Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020

Joint Vision 2010, issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) in 1996, is consistent with both the president's national security strategy and DOD's strategy. Joint Vision 2010 provides:

...the conceptual template for how America's armed forces will channel the vitality and innovations of our people and leverage our technological opportunities to achieve new levels of effectiveness in joint warfighting. (CJCS, 1996)

Based on assumptions about emerging information-age technologies, the strategy in Joint Vision 2010 depends on unprecedented cooperation between the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force (Close, 1999).

Joint Vision 2020, issued in June 2000, builds on and extends the conceptual template established by Joint Vision 2010 to guide the continuing transformation of U.S. forces. The goal of the transformation is the creation of a force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations, based on the strategic concepts of decisive power, power projection, overseas presence, and strategic agility. Although considerable emphasis is placed on information operations, “...information superiority neither equates to perfect information, nor does it mean the elimination of the fog of war” (CJCS, 2000). Joint Vision 2020 is based on the following assumptions:

  • The United States will continue to have global interests and to be engaged with a variety of regional actors.

  • Potential adversaries will have access to the global commercial industrial base and much of the same technology as the U.S. military.

  • Potential adversaries will be able to adapt as U.S. capabilities evolve.

Comments of Regional Commanders-in-Chief

Strong statements in support of the continued use of landmines were made in the testimonies of two regional CINCs before the U.S. Congress. General John H. Tilelli, Jr., then CINC of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea, testified that that “these weapons...are absolutely vital to the success” of the U.S. mission in Korea (Tilelli, 1999). During an informal meeting with the committee, General Tilelli restated this opinion (Tilelli, 2000). Mines have been used for many years in Korea to defend the Demilitarized Zone and are anticipated to be used extensively if North Korea again attempts to cross the 38th parallel.

Several factors are involved in the decision to use APL in Korea. First, the allies anticipate having to fight with very little warning and being overwhelmingly outnumbered by an enemy seeking to enter Seoul, only 50 miles from the border. Therefore, the faster North Korea can be stopped the better. Second, rugged mountains characterize much of the topography. In this type of terrain, mines are ideal for creating obstacles that can slow a military advance (Troxell, 1999).

General Wesley K. Clark, then CINC of the United States European Command, stated that:

Self-destructing and self-deactivating APL, and anti-tank (AT)/APL mixed systems constitute a critical force protection and countermobility asset. Our field commanders count on these systems to protect the force, influence maneuver, shape the battlespace, and mass combat power for decisive engagement. The requirement for such a capability is increasing in light of evolving and future operational concepts that envision our forces conducting dispersed operations over expanded battlespace. (Clark, 1998)

Concept for Future Joint Operations

The purpose of the Concept for Future Joint Operations, issued in May 1997 by the CJCS, was to move the military toward the implementation of Joint Vision 2010. The Concept for Future Joint Operations is expected to be updated, based on Joint Vision 2020; for the present, however, this edition remains authoritative. The Concept, which offers a marketplace of ideas and tools for thinking about future operations, identifies the following military-specific trends (CJCS, 1997):

  • The proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles will increase the vulnerability of U.S. and allied forces in theater and jeopardize access to ports and airfields.

  • Advanced technology weapons, platforms, and sensors will significantly increase the capabilities of some military forces.

Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.

Page 21

  • Microtechnology and biotechnology will create new areas for activity and competition; breakthroughs are likely in the military application of directed energy; and information technology will be vital to military operations.

  • Weapons will become more portable and more lethal, and military forces will become more mobile, which will complicate U.S. and allied targeting.

  • Some states will rely on asymmetric capabilities (e.g., man-portable air defenses, advanced space capabilities, information operations, landmines, chemical and biological weapons, and terrorism) as substitutes for, or complements to, large conventional forces.

  • Joint Vision 2010 and the Armed Services

    In keeping with their missions and drawing upon their unique capabilities, the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force have adapted their force structures, strategies, tactics, people, weapons, and platforms, indeed the way they conduct warfare, to fulfill the broad objectives outlined in Joint Vision 2010.1 The Army and the Marine Corps, the forces that must fight ground wars, rely on landmine capabilities in battlefield environments. The Navy and the Air Force are responsible for the air delivery of certain landmine systems. In addition, each service has a variety of weapon systems capable of destroying enemy tanks and vehicles. If these or future weapons can destroy enemy tanks and vehicles more efficiently than landmines, they might obviate the need for certain landmine systems.

    In this section, the strategies developed by each military service for moving toward 2010 are described. The strategies are simple, high-level blueprints, however, and landmines are not specifically mentioned.

    U.S. Army

    Army Vision 2010 (U.S. Army, 1997a) anticipates the Army's contributions to the operational concepts identified in Joint Vision 2010. Army Vision 2010 is based on the assumption that land forces will exercise direct, continuing, comprehensive control over an area of land, including resources and people, thus solidifying the preliminary advantages achieved by air power. Doctrinally, the Army anticipates being outnumbered and, therefore will depend very heavily on technological superiority.

    The geostrategic environment suggests that the Army must be prepared for a range of future missions, which can be categorized into seven general areas: (1) the defense or liberation of territory; (2) a punitive intrusion; (3) containment of a conflict; (4) leverage; (5) reassurance; (6) core security; and (7) humanitarian missions (humanitarian missions that include a range of peace operations are becoming increasingly common) (Rigby, 1999).

    The Army is moving toward a combat structure of forces that can be transported and deployed rapidly in times of crisis. The centerpiece of this structure, a system of systems called the Future Combat System, consists of several networked functions, vehicles, and subsystems that could collectively provide overwhelming combat power. Current concepts include an infantry carrier vehicle and robotic vehicles that can provide direct and indirect fire and sensing capabilities. Reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition and command and control will be part of the network (DARPA, 2000a). Scientific and technological research for the Future Combat System may lead to the development of other alternatives to landmines.

    U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy

    Much of the tactical environment described for the Army will also apply to the Marine Corps. Operational Maneuver from the Sea describes an environment in which some operations may require that bases be established ashore. However, most will involve units operating without interruption from ships at sea to their inland objectives. Improvements in the precision of long-range weapons, greater reliance on seabased fire support, possible reductions in the fuel consumption of military vehicles, and more direct, timely delivery of logistics from sea to users ashore will enhance the Marine Corps' operational maneuvers from the sea. This approach will not be limited to the high end of the spectrum of armed conflict but will be used in a variety of situations, ranging from a struggle against a rising peer superpower to humanitarian relief operations (U.S. Marine Corps, 1997).

    With the termination of the Cold War, the Navy abandoned its maritime strategy, based on a war at sea with the Soviet fleet and land-based naval air, and adopted a forward-from-the-sea strategy. The new strategy calls for focusing the power of the fleet and embarked Marines through the littorals and against land targets in regional conflicts (U.S. Navy, 1995).

    U.S. Air Force

    In response to Joint Vision 2010, the Air Force is in the process of changing from the global-reach, global-power strategy of the Cold War to a new strategy called Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force (U.S. Air Force, 1998). The change is based on the conviction that good intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance combined with modern aircraft and weaponry will enable the Air Force to find, fix, track, and target anything that moves on the surface of the earth. Information superiority, along with a command and control capability that can coordinate activities and integrate them smoothly with those of the other services, will be an important factor in the Air Force's ability

    1 Changes based on Joint Vision 2020 are expected but have not been published.

    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.

    Page 22

    to achieve global-engagement capability. The Air Force's capabilities can be divided into the following core competencies: air and space superiority; global attack; rapid global mobility; precision engagement; information superiority; and agile combat support. As the lead service for space exploration, the Air Force recognizes that space assets will also be vitally important to its own operations, as well as to the other services.

    Contrasting Opinions

    The contentious nature of APL is reflected in diverse opinions about their use, even within the military. In an open letter to President Clinton published in the New York Times, 15 senior, well-respected retired military officers announced their support for a potential ban on APL: “We support such a ban as not only humane, but also militarily responsible” (New York Times, 1996).


    With no threatening peer competitor to plan for and with the continued rapid emergence of new technologies, particularly information technologies, this would appear to be an opportune time for the United States to make a concerted effort to replace (or at least improve) the systems that currently provide APL functionalities. In addition to retaining the desirable characteristics of APL, new systems should satisfy new requirements, including the capability of distinguishing among friends, foes, and noncombatants rapidly and reliably, easy recovery after hostilities, and environmentally benign effects (see Chapter 3).

    Like most innovations, new technologies are bound to have limitations. As weapon systems become more complex, they will also become increasingly vulnerable to breakdowns and to enemy countermeasures. Better C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capabilities will entail increased bandwidth, which will also increase the potential for unintended interference among friendly electronic emitters. Improvements in technology should improve U.S. warfighting capabilities; at the same time legacy systems must be able to absorb these advances.

    Revolution in Military Affairs

    The U.S. military is experiencing what many experts call a “revolution in military affairs” (Krepinevich, 1994). In their classic book War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler observe that “the way we make wealth is the way we make war—that today's revolutionary changes in business are being mirrored in the world's armies and the future of war itself” (Toffler and Toffler, 1993). Just as the Agrarian Age gave us the hoe and sword, and the Industrial Age gave us mass production and mass destruction, the Information Age will give us the means to fight smarter and more effectively.

    The revolution in military affairs is defined as a major change in warfare brought about by the innovative application of technologies that, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational concepts, will fundamentally alter the character and conduct of operations. Systems, such as the bow and arrow, the rifled gun tube, or aircraft, that use dramatically new technologies can create a major break with the past (Krepinevich, 1994). The new tools invariably affect tactics, operational concepts, and strategies.

    Technology, particularly information technology, now defines the possible and is pushing old ideas, values, methods, and organizations into obsolescence (Metz, 2000). Although information technology was used for military purposes prior to 1990 in isolated instances, the beginning of the present revolution in military affairs is usually traced to the Gulf War, when the U.S. public became aware of “smart weapons” and other advances (O'Hanlon, 2000). Since then, the U.S. military has focused more and more on using technology to gain battle space advantages and reduce U.S. casualties.

    Many advances in technology will be essential to alternatives to APL, especially in the areas of munitions, information, and communications. The following examples are provided as indicators of where these technologies might take us:

    • Killing Devices. High-energy explosives that release energy very quickly have improved fragmenting munitions and shaped-charge weapons. Munitions that must penetrate hulls, armor, and other obstructions before they detonate require insensitive, high-energy explosives. The major outstanding issue is achieving a balance between insensitivity and performance (NRC, 1997).

    • Sensors. Infrared imaging systems have clearly demonstrated their value on the battlefield. Affordable, cooled and uncooled staring focal-plane arrays and associated components that can operate in the mid-wave infrared and long-wave infrared bands will greatly enhance their value. This technology will significantly reduce the costs of operations and provide warfighters with better performing, smaller, lighter infrared imaging systems (Samuels and Supola, 2000).

    • Miniaturization. Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are a revolutionary enabling technology. Embedded into weapon systems, MEMS will provide new levels of situational awareness, information, precision strike capabilities, and new weapons by providing the advantages of small size, low power, low mass, low cost, and high functionality to integrated electromagnetic systems. The primary goal of the DARPA

    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.

    Page 23

    MEMS program is to develop technology that merges sensing, actuating, and computing into new systems that will increase the perception and performance of weapon systems and the control of battlefield environments (DARPA, 2000b).

  • Platforms. Advances in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles might enable a platoon pinned down by enemy fire to launch a bird-sized aircraft and use its video camera to look over the horizon, behind buildings, and beyond the range of average eyesight. These micro air vehicles might be able to fly miles from their takeoff point for hours, all the while feeding video images back to ground stations that can use the information to coordinate ground attacks and air strikes (Braham, 1999).

  • Connectivity. The Army's multifunctional, on-themove, secure, adaptive, integrated communication project (MOSAIC) will be an energy-efficient, wireless, mobile communications system that provides reach-back and secure networked sensor integration. The open systems architecture will feature increased survivability (Kern, 1999).

  • Limitations and Vulnerabilities

    The seductive promise of advanced technologies should not obscure their vulnerabilities. Future conflicts based on the success of precision engagement, with precision-guided munitions and information dominance, may be advantageous if all combatants are technologically advanced. However, it is somewhat far-fetched if one side relies on less sophisticated small arms and guerrilla tactics. Advanced weapons and smart weapons may not be effective against an adaptive enemy (Scales, 2000).

    Even advanced technologies must adhere to the laws of physics. Propulsion systems are generally changing at modest rates. Sensors, however advanced, still have limited abilities to see through many substances. Communications are vulnerable to a variety of attacks, especially to electromagnetic pulse (O'Hanlon, 2000).

    The recent air war in the Balkans is an example of mixed success by new technologies. According to press reports, after 78 days and 38,000 combat sorties in Serbia/Kosovo, NATO investigators could only confirm that a dozen Yugoslav tanks had been destroyed, along with 18 other armored vehicles and 20 artillery pieces. Compare this to the original claim that 120 tanks, 220 other armored vehicles, and 450 mortars and artillery pieces were destroyed (Washington Post, 2000).

    Although we currently have a technological advantage even over our friends and allies, this superiority may not last because the United States is not the only country interested in advanced technologies. For example, a recent book by Chinese military theorists has been described as a Chinese attempt to “explore how technology innovation is setting off a revolution in military tactics, strategy and organization” (U.S. Embassy Beijing, 1999). The widespread availability on the world market of new technologies will certainly neutralize some of the advantages the U.S. military currently enjoys.

    Potential Uses of Mine-like Systems

    Despite radical changes in advanced weaponry, the fundamentals of land warfare have changed very little since World War II. Therefore, the need for traditional AT mines and APL capabilities is likely to continue. A mine-like system acting as a force multiplier might be very useful to small units facing a numerically superior foe. The sensing and alerting functions currently provided by mines could provide valuable real-time inputs to a tactical information system. In addition to the traditional uses of landmines, the following examples illustrate the potential benefits of mine-like capabilities in future operations.

    Seizure of an Airfield

    A logistically efficient mine-like system that could be dropped from aircraft and turned on and off using coded transmissions could be deployed in large numbers over and around an airfield during or just prior to an air assault. If the devices could be turned off locally, perhaps within a 50-meter radius of each U.S. soldier, the remainder of the activated munitions would provide a large tactical advantage to the U.S. force. The munitions would warn of approaching enemy troops or tanks, inhibit enemy mobility and reinforcement, and cause some enemy casualties. If the munition sensors were based on radio signals, they could identify friends and foes with passive or semiactive electronic devices.

    Building Clearance

    Once a building or facility has been cleared of personnel, it would be useful to have a system capable of maintaining the building's cleared status without requiring large numbers of troops. Current mines could be used, but the risk of injury to friendly forces and noncombatants would be high. Future mine-like devices consisting of communicating sensors and nonlethal munitions would be safe for civilians and could automatically warn the tactical information system of intrusions. This mission would require a sensing system capable of detecting and tracking personnel remotely and reporting their movements automatically. Commercial motion sensors could be used for this today, but laser-based or radio-frequency sensors would have longer range and better tracking and discrimination properties. Radio-frequency sensors would have the added advantage of working well in smoke or fog.

    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.

    Page 24

    Guarding of Stockpiles and Supplies

    Systems that could guard stockpiles and supplies, particularly during peace operations, must reliably deter thieves and intruders but must not be lethal to anyone except identified foes. This may require munitions that can give a variety of responses, ranging from warnings (e.g., flashers or sirens) to painful or distasteful events (e.g., sting balls or malodorants). The option for rapid lethal responses when required would also be useful.

    Differential Mobility

    A remotely deployable, controllable “munition field” equipped with an identification of friend-or-foe capability would allow U.S. soldiers and vehicles to move freely while impeding all others. With this system, a munition field could be placed around and in front of a U.S. position allowing soldiers to withdraw or attack through it, as the situation dictated. The system could even be deactivated long enough to allow an enemy to enter the munition field and then reactivated for an efficient enemy kill. This capability could make the difference between victory and defeat for an initial-entry force because the first units to land on hostile soil are certain to be initially outnumbered by enemy forces.

    Border Security

    Along borders (e.g., the Demilitarized Zone in Korea and, perhaps, the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border), mines are both deterrents and alerting devices. They can also inflict casualties in the event of a full-scale attack. However, once cleared lanes have been established, current mines become less effective. Future systems could be capable of remaining effective without giving away their positions or being easily deactivated or cleared within a zone. Munitions could be equipped with noncontact sensing and tracking devices and some remote or area response. Remote response could be provided by rapidresponse rockets, antipersonnel versions of the Wide Area Munition (WAM), or robotic snipers. Area response could be provided by large fuel and air munitions, either placed in the ground or delivered remotely from a short distance away.

    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.
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    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.
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    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.
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    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.
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    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.
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    Suggested Citation:"2 National Security Environments and the Context for Landmines." National Research Council. 2001. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10071.
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    Next: 3 Current Uses of Antipersonnel Landmines »
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    This book examines potential technologies for replacing antipersonnel landmines by 2006, the U.S. target date for signing an international treaty banning these weapons. Alternative Technologies to Replace Antipersonnel Landmines emphasizes the role that technology can play to allow certain weapons to be used more selectively, reducing the danger to uninvolved civilians while improving the effectiveness of the U.S. military. Landmines are an important weapon in the U.S. military’s arsenal but the persistent variety can cause unintended casualties, to both civilians and friendly forces. New technologies could replace some, but not all, of the U.S. military’s antipersonnel landmines by 2006. In the period following 2006, emerging technologies might eliminate the landmine totally, while retaining the necessary functionalities that today’s mines provide to the military.

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