Explosive content of mines


The range of explosive and incendiary chemicals that may be included in munitions is very broad. For practical reasons, this paper only introduces the explosive content of mines, and does that in general terms for those mines commonly encountered. Readers should be aware that the range of chemicals within modern munitions is very extensive indeed. In Humanitarian Mine Action, there is the need to locate and remove/destroy all explosive remnants of war, not only mines, so the entire range of explosive materials are being sought during demining.

Purpose designed land mines (AT or AP) contain a high explosive (HE) charge. The HE is initiated by a shock-wave at the end of an explosive train that may include a 'booster' (primer) and a detonator, but always includes a detonator. Particularly sensitive HE may also be initiated by a shock, such as an impact.


1 High Explosive (HE)

High Explosive, an explosive detonated by a shock-wave: generally detonable explosives which include a "nitro group" chemical constituent (as part of the molecule). On detonation all the energy bound by the molecule is released and the constituents are rearranged to form carbon dioxide, water vapour and nitrogen. Detonation produces a shock-wave with a velocity that varies with the particular explosive but all high explosive shock-wave velocities exceed 2000 m/s (which is the threshold to low velocity).

The most common HE found in mines is TNT. RDX is also common, sometimes mixed with TNT and sometimes with other explosives. Although TNT is common, it is far from universal in mines, so detecting TNT does not guarantee detecting mines. All weights of HE given for the devices listed below are approximate: sources often conflict.

Improvised Explosive Devices can include improvised mines. These may include improvised explosives, such as ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil), Nitro Methane, Acetone Peroxide (Tri-Acetone Tri-Peroxide: TATP) and APNC (TCAP combined with nitrocellulose). TCAP is commonly used by non-state-actors because it can be made using household chemicals and contains no nitrates - so is invisible to nitrate detectors. All improvised explosives can be very unstable and volatiles given off can be extremely hazardous. The velocity of detonation varies but is commonly greater than 5000 m/s.

2 Common HE main-charges in mines

There are many more types of HE than those listed here. Some other types are mixes that may include RDX or TNT, but not all. Only the content of common mines are listed below. The mines made in some countries, such as India and Myanmar, have not been included. (Gelignite is known to have been used in some mines in Myanmar.)

2.1 TNT, also called Trinotrotoluene, Tri, Tolite or Trotyl

The Western military grade of TNT is reported to be 99% TNT and 1% DNT, with an initial shock-wave velocity of 6,800-6,950 m/s. Crystalline and light yellow in colour, it is safe to handle. When detonated, it does not contain enough oxygen for complete combustion. With low sensitivity is can be melted and cast into casings. DNT, Dinitroluene, is not a high explosive in itself.

Sample mines (and country of origin):

PMN (AP Blast, 200g, Former USSR); Gyata-64 (AP Blast, 300g, Hungary); PMD-6 (AP Blast, 200g, Former USSR); MAI-75 (AP Blast, 120g, Romania); PPM-2 (AP Blast, 110g, Germany); Type 72 (AP Blast, 50g, China); PMA-1A (AP Blast, 200g TNT, Former Yugoslavia); PMA-2 (AP Blast, 100g TNT, Former Yugoslavia); DM-11 (AP Blast, 122g, Germany); MI AP DV 59 - "Inkstand" 9Ap Blast, 70g, France); Type 58 (AP Blast, 240g, China); NR 409 (AP Blast, 80g, Belgium also known as M409 (AP Blast, 80g, Portugal); MD-82B (AP Blast, 28g, Vietnam); MAPS or M/411 (AP Blast, 85g, Portugal); PMD-7 (AP Blast, 75g, Former USSR); MS3 (AP Blast, 310g, Former USSR); APP M-57 (AP Blast, 200g, North Korea); No 4 (AP Blast, 188g, Israel); No10 (AP Blast, 50g, Israel); PP Mi-D (AP Blast, 200g, Former Czechoslovakia); PP Mi-Ba (AP Blast, 152g, Former Czechoslovakia); PRB M35 (AP Blast, 100g TNT and potassium nitrate, Belgium); P-4-A/B (AP Blast, 100g TNT/PETN/wax 93:6:1, Spain).

POMZ-2 and 2M (AP fragmentation, 75g, Former USSR); PMR-1 (AP Fragmentation, 75g, Former Yugoslavia); PMR-2 (AP Fragmentation, 75g, Former Yugoslavia); PMR-2A (AP Fragmentation, 100g, Former Yugoslavia); PMR-3 (AP Fragmentation, 410g, Former Yugoslavia); OZM-3 (AP fragmentation, 75g, Former USSR); OZM-4 (AP fragmentation, 170g, Former USSR); OZM-72 (AP fragmentation, 500g, Former USSR); PP Mi-Sr (AP Fragmentation, 360g, Former Czechoslovakia); Type 69 (AP Fragmentation, 105g, China); MON-100 (AP fragmentation, 2kg, Former USSR); MON-200 (AP fragmentation, 12kg, Former USSR); M/966-B (AP fragmentation, 400g, Portugal); P-40 (AP Fragmentation, 480g, Italy); M2 (AP Fragmentation, 154g, United States of America); M3 (AP Fragmentation, 410g, United States of America); M16 and M16A1 (AP Fragmentation, 575g, United States of America); M16A2 (AP Fragmentation, 600g, United States of America); PMR-4 (AP Fragmentation, 200g, Former Yugoslavia); DM-31 (AP Fragmentation, 540g, Germany); S-Mine 35 (AP Fragmentation, 182g, Germany); Type 59 (AP Fragmentation, 75g, China); MBV-78A1 (AP Fragmentation, 75g, Vietnam); MBV-78A2 (AP Fragmentation, 65g, Vietnam); MDH-10 (AP Fragmentation, 2 kg, Vietnam); NO-MZ 2B (AP Fragmentation, 65g, Vietnam); P-40 (AP Fragmentation, 120g, Vietnam); Type 58 (AP Fragmentation, 75g, China); M/966 (AP Fragmentation, 154g, Belgium); P-S-1 (AP Fragmentation, 450g, Spain).

TM(N)-46 (AT blast, 5.7kg, Former USSR); TM-57 (AT blast, 6.34kg, Former USSR); TMM-1 (AT Blast, 5.6 kg, Former Yugoslavia); TMRP-6 (AT Blast, 5.1 kg, Former Yugoslavia); TMA-1A (AT Blast, 5.4 kg, Former Yugoslavia); TMA-2 (AT Blast, 6.5 kg, Former Yugoslavia); TMA-3 (AT Blast, 6.5 kg, Former Yugoslavia); TMA-4 (AT Blast, 5.5 kg, Former Yugoslavia); TMA-5 (AT Blast, 5.5 kg, Former Yugoslavia); TM-62B (AT blast, 7.5kg, Former USSR); TM62 series (AT blast, 7.5kg, may be RDX mix, Former USSR); TMK-2 (AT shaped charge, 6kg, Former USSR); PT Mi-Ba-111 (AT Blast, 7.2 kg, Former Czechoslovakia); P2/3 Mk 2 (AT blast, 5kg, Pakistan); MAT-76 (AT Blast, 9.5kg, Romania); PT Mi-D (AT Blast, 6.2 kg, Former Czechoslovakia); TMD-1 and 2 (AT Blast, 5.5 kg, Former Yugoslavia); PT Mi-K (AT Blast, 5 kg, Former Czechoslovakia); SACI (AT Blast, 7 kg, Italy); No 6(AT Blast, 6 kg, Israel); M/71 (AT Blast, 6.25 kg, Egypt); M6A2 (AT Blast, 4.45 kg, United States of America); PT Mi-Ba-11 (AT Blast, 6 kg, Former Czechoslovakia); "AT-8" (AT Blast, 8 kg, Cuba); PM-60 (AT Blast, 7.5 kg, Germany); Mk-5 (AT Blast, 3.7 kg, United Kingdom); Mk-7 (AT Blast, 8.9 kg, United Kingdom); M1 and M1A1 (AT Blast, 2.75 kg, United States of America); Tellermine 35 (AT Blast, 5.5 kg, Germany); Tellermine 42 (AT Blast, 5.5 kg, Germany); Tellermine 43 (AT Blast, 5.5 kg, Germany); Riegel Mine 43 (At Blast, 4 kg, Germany).

2.2 RDX: also called Hexogen and Cyclonite, Trinotro 1,3,5, triazo cyclohexane, T4

RDX is white and crystalline in appearance. It is thermally stable but shock-sensitive so requires some desentitization for safe use. It has an initial shock-wave velocity of around 8,500 m/s.

The mines listed immediately below include some with a mixed RDX fill that does NOT include TNT. Mines with RDX and TNT mixed in them are listed under a separate heading.

Sample mines (and country of origin):

VS-50 (AP Blast, 43g, Italy); TS-50 (AP Blast, 50g, Italy); VS-MK2 (AP Blast, 33g RDX/wax, Italy); VAR/40 (AP Blast, 40g, Italy); SB-33 (AP Blast, 35g RDX and HMX, Italy); R2M1 (AP Blast, 58g RDX/wax, South Africa); R2M2 (AP Blast, 58g RDX/wax, South Africa); Goradze (AP Blast - shaped charge - 5g, Former Yugoslavia); Gravel mines (AP Blast, 11-30g RDX/Lead Azide or Chlorate/Phosphorus, United States of America); RAP No 1 and 2 (AP Blast, 140g PETN/RDX - Pentolite - Zimbabwe)

MON-90 (AP fragmentation, 6.2kg (PVV-5A, RDX/PE), Former USSR); BLU-91/B Gator (AP Fragmentation, 585g RDX/Estane 95:5, United States of America); PSM-1 (AP Fragmentation, 170g, Bulgaria); Model 123 (AP Fragmentation, 250g, Thailand); ZAPS (AP Fragmentation, 500g PETN/RDX - Pentolite - Zimbabwe)

2.3 RDX/TNT mixed

There are various mixes and names, including CYCLOTOL; TG40; Composition B - including a desensitiser - but all have TNT and RDX in the mix. When known the ratio of the mix is given in percentages (i.e. 20:80 = 20% and 80%).

Sample mines (and country of origin):

PMN-2 (blast, 100g, former USSR); MAPS or M/411 (AP Blast, 85g Composition B, Portugal); VAR/40 (AP Blast, 40g Composition B, Italy); NR 409 (AP Blast, 80g, Belgium also known as M409 (AP Blast, 80g, Portugal); FMK-1 (AP Blast, 152g, Argentina).

Valmara 69 (AP Fragmentation, 420g Composition B, Italy); PMOM-1 (AP Fragmentation, 425g TNT/RDX 50:50, Former Yugoslavia); MON-50 (AP fragmentation, 700g (PVV-5A, RDX/PE), Former USSR); AUPS (AP Fragmentation, 115g Composition B, Italy); BLU-92/B Gator (AP Fragmentation, 421g RDX/TNT 60:40, United States of America); Claymore (AP Fragmentation, 700g, Egypt); NR-413 (AP Fragmentation, 100g Composition B, Belgium); M421 (AP Fragmentation, 100g Composition B, Portugal); L1-12 (AP Fragmentation, 3 kg TNT/RDX 60:40, Sweden); Mk-2 (AP Fragmentation, 500g TNT/Ammonium Nitrate - AMOTOL, United Kingdom); M26 (AP Fragmentation, 170g Composition B, United States of America).

TM-72 (AT shaped charge, 2.5 kg, Former USSR); Type 72 (AT Blast, 5.4 kg, China); TMK-2 (AT shaped charge, 6.5 kg, Former USSR); VS-2.2 (AT Blast, 2.2 kg Composition B, Italy), VS-1.6 (AT Blast, 1.85 kg Composition B, Italy); M15 (AT Blast, 10.3 kg Composition B, United States of America); M19 (AT Blast, 9.5 kg Composition B, United States of America); TC/3.6 (AT Blast, 36 kg Composition B, Italy); TC/6 (AT Blast, 6 kg Composition B, Italy); Barmine (AT Blast, 8.1 kg, United Kingdom); SH-55 (AT Blast, 5.5 kg Composition B, Italy); SB-81 (AT Blast, 2.2 kg TNT/RDX/HMX - 84:125:1, Italy); No 8 (AT Blast, 7 kg RDX/TNT 60:40, South Africa); PRB M3 (AT Blast, 6kg, Belgium); PRB M3A1 (AT Blast, 6kg, Belgium); FMK-3 (AT Blast, 6.1 kg, Argentina); C-3-A/C-3-B (AT Blast, 5 kg RDX/TNT/Aluminium 50:30:20, Spain).

2.4 Tetryl

With an initial shock-wave velocity of 7,500-7,850 m/s and high sensitivity, Tetryl is often used as a "booster" to initiate less sensitive explosives, but is also the main HE charge in some mines.

Sample mines (and country of origin):
M14 (AP Blast, 29g, United States of America); P2 Mk 2 (AP blast, 30g, Pakistan); P4 Mk 1 (AP blast, 30g, Pakistan); PMA-3 (AP Blast, 35g, Former Yugoslavia). M7 A2 (AP Fragmentation - Anti-Vehicle - 1.62 kg, United States of America)

2.5 Picric acid

Sample mines (and country of origin):
TMD-44 (AT blast, 5-7kg TNT or Picric acid, Former USSR); TMD-B (AT blast, 5-7kg TNT or Picric acid, Former USSR).

2.6 PE - Plastic Explosive

PE is a general term used for high powered explosives - sometimes any mixture containing RDX and/or PETN, or Semtex. [Semtex: 45% RDX, 41% Petn, 11% HC oil (paraffin), 1.8% Butadien.] All PE contains a binder with suitable elastic properties, usually made up of a polymer and plasticizer. Polymers used may be polyisobutylene, polystyrene, polyacronitrile, polyethylene (or others). Typical plasticizers are dioctylphtalate, dibutylphtalate and dioctylsebacate.

Sample mines (and country of origin):

MINI-MS-803 (AP Fragmentation, 460g PE9, South Africa); M18A1 (AP Fragmentation, 682g C4, United States of America); Shrapnel Mine No 2 (AP Fragmentation, 680g PE9, South Africa); MRUD (AP Fragmentation, 900g PETN or RDX based plastic, Former Yugoslavia); PMR-U (AP Fragmentation, 100g commercial PE, Former Yugoslavia); PPMP-2 (AP Fragmentation, 150g commercial PE, Former Yugoslavia); P5-MK1&2 (PE-3A, AP Fragmentation, Pakistan); Type 66 (AP Fragmentation, 680g PE, China). PFM1 (AP Blast , 37g liquid PE [VS6-D or VS-60D] Former USSR). PGMDM/PTM-1S (AT Blast, 1.1kg PE, Former USSR).

2.7 Nitromethane/Nitroethane

Sample mine: Dragon's tooth (AP Blast, 9g, United States of America).