New anti-landmine system developed

Anti-personnel mines litter the ground in war-torn countries. Its victims are often those left behind after the tanks and armoured vehicles have pulled out. But in Switzerland, a new bomb disposal system has now been developed.

This content was published on November 18, 1999 - 09:17

Anti-personnel mines litter the ground in war-torn countries. Its victims are often those left behind after the tanks and armoured vehicles have pulled out. But in Switzerland, a new bomb disposal system has been developed to help rid the world of these weapons.

The new system has been developed at the Swiss Ammunition Enterprise Corporation in Thun, which is already filling orders from several countries. It's a potential godsend for bomb disposal experts. Once a mine is located, the device is placed next to it, and the operators retreat to a safe distance. A plastic explosive is then detonated, firing a copper dart into the mine casing. The projectile destroys the mine, but does not cause it to explode.

The manufacturers say the bomb disposal system will reduce the cost of clearing unexploded ordinance. At the moment, an anti-personnel landmine can be bought for as little as five dollars. That same mine typically costs up to 600 dollars to locate and destroy. The new system should bring that down to about 450 dollars. Much of the saving is in the cost of explosives - currently up to one kilogramme of explosives is needed to disarm an anti-tank mine. The new system brings this down to fifty grammes. Smaller mines need even less.

So far 40 countries have ratified the international ban on landmines. But getting the others on board, particularly the United States, is proving difficult. Until that happens, mines will continue to kill, maim and ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year.

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