How Landmines Work

A remotely controlled Panther armored mine-clearing vehicle leads a column of armored vehicles down a road near McGovern Base, in Bosnia-Herzegovina on May 16, 1996.

Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

Mine Clearing Machines

When there is not a lot of time for an army to clear a minefield, it will often employ the use of certain machines to roll through and clear a safe path. Military forces employ several kinds of mine-clearing machines to clear out or detonate mines. Some machines are specifically designed for the task of mine clearance, while tanks can also be fitted with certain mine-clearing devices.

There are several types of mine-clearing machines. New machines are remote controlled, which minimizes the risk to personnel. Mine-clearing machines use one of three techniques, including flailing chains to beat the ground, rollers to roll over and detonate mines, and rakes or blades to plow through the minefields, pushing the mines to the side. Let's look at a few of these machines:

  • Tanks - Tanks, like the U.S. Army M-1A1 Abrams main battle tank, are often equipped with a mine plow designed to push mines out of the tank's path. The plow consists of several blades that extract the mines, a moldboard to push the mines to the side and a leveling skid to control the depth of the blade. Click here to see an M-1A1 Abrams tank equipped with a mine-clearing plow.
  • Panther - The Panther is a 60-ton remote-controlled vehicle that is based on a modified M-60 tank hull. Using a joy stick, an operator navigates the Panther through a minefield. The vehicle, as you can see in the picture above, uses metal rollers to set off blast or magnetic mines.
  • Aardvark - The Aardvark Mk III vehicle is designed with a flail mechanism that beats chains against the ground in a rotating motion to detonate and destroy mines. This machine is often used in humanitarian de-mining operations, according to the Norwegian Peoples Aid.
  • Berm Processing Assembly - As a plowing machine rolls through a minefield, it leaves large mounds of soil that contain landmines. The Berm Processing Assembly gets its name from the word berm, which means a mound of earth. The machine scoops up dirt, shakes out mines from the dirt and leaves the mines exposed on the ground for de-mining units to safely destroy them. Click here to see an image of the Berm Processing Assembly.

New mines are laid at a rate 25 times faster than they are being cleared. New technologies will make it easier to find and locate mines, but can't prevent their placement. As long as nations continue to use landmines, these devices will be a danger for civilians as well as soldiers.