Landmines create the dotted lines through this desert scene.

Photo courtesy United Nations

Landmine Basics

­Landmines are easy to make, cheap and effective weapons that can be deployed easily over large areas to prevent enemy movements. Mines are typically placed in the ground by hand, but there are also mechanical minelayers that can plow the earth and drop and bury mines at specific intervals.

­Mines are often laid in groups, called minefields, and are designed to prevent the enemy fro­m passing through a certain area, or sometimes to force an enemy through a particular area. An army also will use landmines to slow an enemy until reinforcements can arrive. While more than 350 var­ieties of mines exist, they can be broken into two categories:

  1. Anti-personnel (AP) mines
  2. Anti-tank (AT) mines

The basic function of both of these types of landmines is the same, but there are a couple of key differences between them. Anti-tank mines are typically larger and contain several times more explosive material than anti-personnel mines. There is enough explosive in an anti-tank mine to destroy a tank or truck, as well as kill people in or around the vehicle. Additionally, more pressure is usually required for an anti-tank mine to detonate. Most of these mines are found on roads, bridges and large clearances where tanks may travel.

In the next two sections, you will get a closer look at a few landmines and the parts that make them work.