Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist

Comment: Risk from ERW?


Several researchers with varied interests have asked me:-

"Discounting mines, which ERW items cause most injury/death to civilians?" This is not a question any one person could answer on their own. I asked a few friends and got some answers....... but not enough.

Here's my current (2004) "best-guess" list of offenders but it may not cover every country. I have not tried to list them in order of the frequency of their causing civilian injury. All those of you with demining field-time, if your experience is that the list is wrong or misses anything out, please say so. The more input you make, the more likely that the result will get close to the truth.

1) Fuze systems of all kinds that include detonators - especially mortar fuzes.

2) Grenades of all types (including many that are still "pinned"). Most found have been from the former USSR. Some have no time delay. Technically those still "pinned" are not UXO, but are still ERW.

3) BLU-97 (USA) Multi-directional secondary fuze system that can remain operational and act as an anti-handling device. Extremely high failure rates have been reported.

4) BL-755 (UK) used by 17 countries, 8 NATO and 9 others: considered very unpredictable when unexploded.

5) M42 DPICM (UK, USA, Yugoslavia - variations in other countries). The Yugoslav KB-1 variant has been identified as especially dangerous.

6) M118 Rockeye (USA) an extremely high failure rate is reported.

7) PG-7M (Russian) despite the fact it is supposed to have a self destruct, it is frequently found in an unstable condition - presumably because it has a piezoelectric fuse.

8) 40mm rifle grenades, various origins. These may also have a self-destruct delay - which can fail to complete, so leaving the item very sensitive.

9) 60 - 120mm mortars, HE and WP, various origins - usually initiated by deliberate contact (taking apart).

10) Anti-armour hand grenades (often based on the Russian RKG-3 series).

11) HE rockets damaged on impact. (In all cases, risk may be increased if the munition is damaged.)

When the list has been refined, two other questions will arise:

a) What percentage of each type of munition can be later initiated accidentally? (For example, for every 100 of a type, some may be "dud" and some may be very sensitive to movement. The specific fuze system may become the critical identifier when assessing the risk of accidental initiation.

b) What proportion of civilian accidents occur as a result of a deliberate interaction with the device? In these cases, the fuze system may be relatively unimportant.