Anti-tank mines


Long frontlines are defensible after all when you're facing the Russian land forces because they suck and can't even match the state of art of breakthrough of 1917.

This means that frontline defence is something to look at - something I clearly didn't do much in the past.

The most messy element of a breakthrough is in my opinion the need to overcome (defended) AT minefields.

Anti-tank mines can be scatterable (and then lay on the surface) by helicopter or rockets, but fortifying a frontline for months demands an emphasis on properly-laid anti-tank mines that are just below the surface.

The laying of such AT mines leaves some visible traces, but this can be exploited to creating fake mine barriers without expending any mines.

A typical minelaying trailer/plough, source Ministry of Defence Ukraine

There are different kinds of AT mines. The simple pressure-fused circular mines are not very efficient. A more efficient form of AT mine is the bar mine, which is laid crosswise to the expected movement direction of hostile vehicles and can be triggered by pressure along its entire length (AT mines require pressures that normal humans don't generate without jumping onto the mine). This bar mine concept originated in Italy and was copied by Germany during WW2.

Italian WW2 bar mine (wooden)

A modern bar mine does not neet to be a simple blast mine. A linear shaped charge might make sense. Linear shaped charges might not cut through a tank's belly, but they would easily cut tracks with much less explosives than a blast mine. A downside would be the magnetic signature of the mine. A simple blast mine on the other hand could be largely non-magnetic, which has major upsides (low-flying tiny drones could map the locations of actual mines by using magnetic anomaly detectors).

Linear shaped charges, widely used in demolition

Moreover, the fusing should not be simple pressure fusing, so thermobaric and high explosive munitions cannot clear a lane in the minefield reliably. The fuse should either be built to require a longer pressure than explosions do cause or it should have a second fuse (acoustic or magnetic) confirming the contact before the charge explodes.

Magnetic-acoustic/vibration fusing can be combined with ordinary non-bar shaped AT mines. The advantage would be fusing across the entire tank's width rather than only under the tracks. This means a shaped charge(s) effect could be used to penetrate to the driver (or an IFV's engine). The blast would still be enough to cut tracks if they're on top of the mine. Personally, I would not trust such fusing because it can be defeated without damage to the mineclearing equipment and the fusing principle has a huge challenge in determining the right time for the explosion.

Tilting rod fuses can be used as well to explode a mine when a tank is touching the rod, but having a rod extend 60 cm from the soil seems to invite simple countermeasures to me. Furthermore, such tilt rod fuses can be activated by people, so there's the AP land mine ban issue.

The explosives should be insensitive enough to not go off on the shock of nearby explosions (or vegetation fires) for the same reason.

The mines should have a self-deactivation function (programmable time). They might also have a radio receiver and processor, so they can receive coded signals to deactivate and activate. This would enable friendly forces to pass when the mines are deactivated. Such functions do require a battery, though.

In any case, the minelaying device should create accurate recordings of the positions of laid mines.

None of the AT mines should have any trap mechanism against pickup; this would turn them into banned anti-personnel mines. It should be militarily unnecessary anyway.

Last but not least, the mines should have an interface for a demolitions fuse, so they could alternatively be used for demolition purposes.

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A defensive AT mine barrier (behind a picket & skirmish zone) could consist of 

  • multiple fake mine rows
  • a few low density mine rows
  • a few high density mine rows
  • ATGM teams with thermal sights guarding the actual mine rows against clearing vehicles in areas of long lines of sight
  • infantry, remotely-operated AT weapons and jumping mines guarding the actual mine rows against clearing vehicles in areas of short lines of sight
About jumping mines; these videos explain this 1990's technology. They're very expensive and tend to hit the vehicle engine, stopping the tank or minesweeping vehicle. Enough and suitable passive armour on top could mitigate that.

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Infantry positions can be dealt with by proper reconnaissance, a decent brief artillery fires plan and a rapid assault with armoured vehicles (including dismounting infantry) with suppressive HE fires up front and smoke on the flanks. Resistance by infantry should be weak and largely ineffective if this is done correctly. Modern technology should even enable hasty attacks with near-full use of this breakthrough pattern.

A resilient AT minefield can mess with such a breakthrough plan. It makes the assault more hazardous and slower. The ATGM defences may only need to stop the few mineclearing vehicles in order to stall a breakthrough effort.

AT mines are not very expensive (save for the jumping ones) and are no high tech. The laying of such minefields is not terribly demanding, either. AT minefields can thus be a very affordable reinforcement to those forces that defend a frontline.

It may make sense even for NATO to pay attention to defending frontlines because this would enable a lower risk build-up of forces, an exploitation of superior artillery targeting ability and an exploitation of superior air power. To go all-mobile warfare with mechanised forces right away would be rather risky by comparison, especially as there are usually relatively few NATO forces on the Eastern frontier.




P.S.: There are lightweight AT mines meant for laying by infantry (rather than engineers). They can be very lightweight (about 1 kg) with a full-width fuse (magnetic, magnetic-acoustic or tilt rod) and are not meant for large minefields, but rather to be laid in a few select places. They may make sense in an AT plan, but the concept appears to be rather attrition-oriented than meant to stop or slow down a large assault. They could still be worthwhile, particularly with a secondary use for demolition & wall-breaching by infantry.



  1. Russia is currently very incompetent due to corruption. They overestimated their capabilities. What if Russian capabilities align much better with their estimates next time, because losing a war against NATO or EU would endanger the survival of their crony-capitalism?

    1. Russia too poor for this. Like Iran or North Korea.

  2. I think poor countries can achieve surprisingly good results if they train and coordinate well.

    1. >poor countries
      >train and coordinate
      >three shoots from Kalashnikov per year
      >one shoot from tank-gun per three year


    2. And then they have a little war and shoot a lot more over a long time, because the war doesn't end quickly.

    3. >have a little war

      Oh yeah, Irak have little war with Iran. So?

    4. Or Taliban versus the US. Poor doesn't equal incompetent.

    5. US just tired of this. If you have 20 years to wait "win" - good tactics.