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"Clearing minefield and proving cleared lanes." Topic

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UshCha23 Jun 2017 7:56 a.m. PST

Has anybody got data on the effectiveness of mechanical mine clearing (flails in WWII) and more varid now, and also the risk to the clearing vehicle. It appears generally to have been very effective and low risk.
We have been told off by an engineer for rolling with the gun pointing forward which is unacceptable for modern long guned tanks. This was only acceptable in WWII where the gun was protected by not being significantly exposed to blast. Gun at 90 degrees is the minimum acceptable.

How good is the cleared lane. I am aware the modern US sometimes proves a lane by sending a tank down it. Anecdotaly there have beed vehicles blown up in a cleared lane long after it has been used safely by a good number of vehicles. but this may not be a useful to model in a big game. So what sort of risk does the first few vehicle run in crossing the cleared lane?

Kelly Armstrong Inactive Member23 Jun 2017 8:11 a.m. PST

At best mechanical flailing will only reduce risk and not eliminate the risk. It is a problem to this day how to detect and render safe mines, we have several means but nothing is guaranteed. Multiple passes helps reduce risk further.

In a skirmish wargame scenario under battle conditions, risk reduction from mine clearing operations is minimal as passes are limited, equipment may not be operated optimally, cleared lanes may not be marked or communicated effectively. So there should always be a risk of crossing "cleared" ground.

In a larger scale game, the clearing operation can proceed to a higher degree of effectiveness as multiple passes, multiple methods, and numerous resources can be applied. In larger scale games I would either assume the minefield is present (risk) or cleared (no risk).

ScottS23 Jun 2017 9:32 a.m. PST

Hey, a topic I've experienced first hand…

Generally speaking you won't send a tank down the lane first.

The typical procedure for the USMC (and, presumably, the Army) is to use a MCLC – Mine Clearance Line Charge – to blow up the mines. A MCLC is carried by a modified AAVP-7A1. It shoots a rocket across the minefield – the rocket pulls a flexible explosive charge behind it. This is detonated, which blows up the mines. After this is done you send a "blade tank" – a tank with a mine plow or a 'dozer blade – through the lane to "proof" the lane. Repeat as necessary.

This procedure is still used today. If you look on YouTube you can find videos of MCLCs being used.

I was with a unit called OCD-1, part of Task Force Ripper, in the first Gulf war. This is how we cleared minefields. I was a gunner on a blade tank.

Starfury Rider23 Jun 2017 9:42 a.m. PST

A few notes from 79th Armd Div's experience in 1944-45.

Basic subunit was the Troop, with five flail tanks. Three tanks would advance in echelon, attempting to have a slight overlap between their individual lanes, creating a combined lane of around 24-ft (7-8 metres) wide. The remaining two tanks provided gun cover and replacement if required.

79th Armd Div noted that flails were effective down to about 5-in on 'normal' ground, but that deeply laid mines would be missed and could detonate after numerous vehicles had used the lane safely.

I couldn't see a calculation of how many mines might be missed over a given area, assuming a uniform distribution by the defending force.


Apache 623 Jun 2017 12:14 p.m. PST

As ScottS stated, the preferred method is to explosively breach with a line charge and mechanically proof the lane, normally with mine plows.

There are huge variations in minefield and mine technology.

Flails are one of the most reliable methods to remove mines, but it tends to be comparatively slow and can really tear up the ground which can adversely effect the movement of follow on vehicles. Flails in US are mostly used for deliberate clearing of minefields, after defending units have been destroyed or driven off.

Mine plows attached to the front end of tanks are used for breaches conducted under fire. They are designed to plow antitank mines out of the travelled lane without detonating them, this leaves the mines 'concentrated in spoils piles by the side which most still be cleared. AP mines will often detonate, may be sent into the soil pile or may pass through the tines. AT mines that detonate against the plow may disable it, which is why the explosive devices are used first.

For game purposes against a 'standard' mixed AP and AT minefield assuming 'simple' pressure detonated mines (with a density of 1 AT mine per meter which was basically standard for NATO and Warsaw Pact) a vehicle should have 50% chance of encountering a mine, if a breach has not been done. Increase the encounter rate to 75% if using tilt rods and or magnetically fused mines.

If the vehicle is using a mine plow and encounters an AT mine, there is a 15% the mine plow will be disabled, the vehicle may drop the plow and continue. Mine plows will often (normally) have 'gauzing' systems that predetonate magnetically fused mines.

Reduce the encounter rate to 15% if a line charge has been fired for the breach. 30% if using "modern mines" designed to resist explosive clearing."

Reduce the encounter rate to 2% if a line charge has been detonated and a mine plow used.

Lion in the Stars23 Jun 2017 1:10 p.m. PST

MICLICs are also packed on trailers, a friend of mine suffered an accidental detonation when the MICLIC his Stryker was pulling went up. (He survived, thankfully)

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 2:11 p.m. PST

Even the WW2 tanks would put the gun over the back deck before flailing. There are other tanks and anti-tank self propelled gns in overwatch of the work the whole time.

As Starfury Rider stated, five tank troop, two on straight overwatch, three flailing in echelon covering about twenty to twentyfour foot overlap. No, they might not get them all, but they did get most. So, yes there is always still a risk.

Modern tank troops or platoons are four tanks. They have rollers and plows. They are so bloody heavy that they are not normally mounted un;ess for use! The rollers are used to confirm that yes there are mines there. Then the plows open up a lane or two, literally by removing so many inches of top soil as determined. Once the lanes are open the roller tanks go through to confirm. Again, will only be done when covered by ther tanks and support weapons like TOWs and such.

Same story of they don't get them all, but surely reduce the odds.

It is a slow and a deliberate operation, even for a mobile operation.

Modern miclic systems are fun to watch. A system rockets out a tube over and through the suspected minefield. Before it lands it is filled near instantly with an explosive. Some form of a gas perhaps. On landing it is detonated and the pressure of the explosion clears a lane so far from either side of the tube. Again, no guarantees it got them all.

I hope all this helps.

Legion 423 Jun 2017 2:17 p.m. PST

The MICLIC mixed Mine Plows/Blade Tanks seem to be a good mix for clearing mines today. Based on what I have read here from the Vets, etc. It was still fairly new when I got out of the ARMY in early '90, IIRC. And I've seen/read about in the various medias.

I also heard the MICLIC can be used to clear a street with enemy occupying the structures along it. Pretty effectively … But this is based on reports, etc. I was not there like Scott and others.

mkenny23 Jun 2017 5:28 p.m. PST

Crabs in action [URL=]


Krieger24 Jun 2017 1:48 p.m. PST

Of course there are ways of designing the minefield to take out any tank trying to clear the rout with mine roller or dozer blade. This type of mining operation would require alot more time and resources though.

RudyNelson25 Jun 2017 8:39 p.m. PST

If you read the army manual on mine warfare, it clearly states that minefields are not intended to stop the enemy. The primary purpose is to slow the attack by causing chaos by disrupting formations. Only part of the plan is to direct enemy troops into kill zones and lanes.
It is a complicated placement of barb wire, clarmores and AP and or AT mines. All have to be covered with rapid fire weapons and the pre-plotted use of mortars and artillery.

The Soviets had similar schemes in the OPFOR manuals covering their tactics. While these manuals were given out at schools for officers. They were available to all troops at the base library. Sadly this is a research goldmine overlooked for decades by tacticians wanting to do research.

Legion 426 Jun 2017 6:07 a.m. PST

Yes, as we know eventually based on the equipment on hand, the situation, whether it is covered by fire, etc. IIRC the Free French at Bir Hakim cleared a way thru a minefield, of which there were many there, laid by both sides.

By driving a vehicle, like a Bren/Universal Carrier thru until it hit a mine(s). Then followed the trail and pushed on to continues their way thru. Using another Carrier until they successfully crossed.

Of course, the driver(s) may or may not have survived. But this was obviously a very desperate measure. Not really the best solution in most situations.

Lion in the Stars27 Jun 2017 3:57 p.m. PST

I think MICLICs are the safest option to lead off, then you still drive a couple mine plows through. Not that breaching a minefield is ever truly safe.

After all, most high explosives, even the nominally "insensitive" ones, react poorly to several pounds of HE going off next to them (the US M58MICLIC has 5lbs of C4 per linear foot of line). Doesn't necessarily matter if the mine fuse doesn't fire, the main charge can still be detonated or disrupted.

Fortunately, nobody uses the WW2 "Conger"-style line charges, where a rocket drags an empty 2" firehose over the minefield, which was then pumped full of nitroglycerine(!) before detonation. At least it usually got pumped full of explosive before detonation. Sometimes, though, kabooms happen before you're ready for them. Like what happened to my friend, and that was with a modern M58 MICLIC. The Conger was notorious for accidental detonations.

UshCha29 Jun 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info. I had been reading the US MANUAL on laying minefields. Like a lot of things it's hard to translate theory into practise. Keeping the die rolls invisible is tricky. Need to find out how to do this in a fair but invisible way to the enemy.
Certainly we need to review proving minefields rules, we can cut out much of the proving making the simulation faster with no loss in the current overall acccuracy. Also the need for two vehicles abrest is new too me. Certainly some WWII accounts are not clear that they were 2 vehicles wide. Also if one vehicle was lost it implies that a single vehicle bypassed the lost one and continued solo.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 11:45 a.m. PST

Much of the discussion so far has covered either the WW2 British mechanized approach, or the modern approaches.

Can anyone shed light on how other nations approached minefields in WW2?

My (admittedly limited) knowledge so far, is that:

U.S. Army: for mechanized (armored) formations, there was very limited / experimental use of over-sized "Aunt Jemima" rollers T1e3. These were 10-foot (3m) diameter flat metal rollers in two 5-roller packs attached to the front of an M4 Sherman tank (one pack in front of each track of the tank).

But the Aunt Jemima rig was never deployed in any numbers (from my understanding), and the far more common approach was just to use an M4 tank with bulldozer blade M1 attached (more than 100 tank-dozers were completed before D-Day), or a Caterpillar D7 bulldozer (often equipped with add-on armor). The great advantages of the tank-dozer were that it was a capable and robust combat vehicle as well as an engineering tool, and was available in the armored formations.

Red Army: From 1943 onwards the PT-34 mine-roller tanks became increasingly common. These had twin small-diameter rollers, with ploughing feet, suspended in front of the tank from an A-frame that attached to the lower front hull. The tanks were generally in dedicated companies of mine-clearing tanks. They would be called forward for attacks against prepared defenses where mine-fields were known, and the rollers attached at the jumping-off point just prior to the attack, held up off the ground by cable, and only lowered to ground contact when the edge of the minefield was reached.

But … how effective were flat dozer-blades and mine rollers, when used in these ways (not to proof, but actually clear, the minefield).

For example, for the US a flat bladed dozer pushes the ground in front of it, accumulated a substantial pile of earth and only overflowing some of it to the sides as it advances. This means a very limited distance can be covered before you need to stop and adjust your angle of approach (to push the waste off to the sides) if you are taking more than a few inches off the top. I would expect this to be a painfully slow process if under fire.

With the Red Army approach vehicle lanes were not cleared, but only lanes for individual tracks of the vehicles. I have to imagine that mines were still fairly frequently hit when following vehicles tried to keep their tracks (or wheels?) within the track-marks of the mine-clearing tanks.

Of course in both armies you could also call the engineers to do it by hand with mine-detectors and mine-probes, which was probably the most common approach in any case.

I'd be interested to know if anyone has more information.

Also any insight into German mechanized techniques (beyond the "call the engineers").

(aka: Mk 1)

Timbo W29 Jun 2017 3:41 p.m. PST

Were Bangalore torpedoes used for mine clearing?

Legion 429 Jun 2017 3:46 p.m. PST

They were primarily used for removing wire obstacles, etc. Only trained with them once. They could be quite effective and could have a number of uses if one uses their imagination. So yes, they could be used to clear mines … But that was not what they were originally designed for. And like any mine clearing, everybody has to "be careful" … link

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 5:06 p.m. PST

So yes, they could be used to clear mines … But that was not what they were originally designed for.

I have seen sources that describe Israeli use of Bangalore Torpedos for clearing mines as recently as the Yom Kippur war.

And like any mine clearing, everybody has to "be careful"

Yeah. Well. Never trained on 'em, never used 'em. But …

My understanding of the method of employment tells me that this particular tool, when used in mine clearing, is a bit more than 'everybody has to "be careful"' kind of thing.

To wit: the Bangalore Torpedo is a tube filled with explosives. Whether you use a single tube, or connect some number of tubes to make a very LONG tube, you have a tube filled with explosives. You push that tube, manually (as in by hand) across the ground, to get it where you want it. Then you initiate the fuze (hopefully by a remote detonator) and BANG.

Fine if you are pushing it under or along something. Particularly if that something is reasonably inert. Like barbed wire. Or a hedge. Or a wall. Not highly reactive.

But minefields are not suspended in the air. And they are built to be reactive, in nasty ways. They are primarily comprised of little packages of nastiness just beneath the ground, with little sensitive fuze devices of many sorts poking up to, through, over, and around the surface.

And you, our lucky hero, are supposed to push a tube of explosives, by hand, across the ground that is laced with little pokey-up things -- buttons, tilts, trip wires, etc. that, if touched, pushed, tilted, or in any way molested may well set off those packages of nasty under the ground. And if you do, well, you've just put a bigger package of nasty right on top of that little package of nasty … a bigger package of nasty which is effectively a direct pipeline for the nasty to travel 5, 10, 20 feet in a straight line to YOU.

I can see using them for a minefield comprised entirely of pressure-fuzed anti-tank mines. But unfortunately most minefields don't have labels that accurately reflect their contents.

So I'm thinking maybe that's not just an "everybody has to be careful" thing going on. More like a "somebody gets the extra-suck job today!" thing. Certainly wouldn't be my first choice for clearing a minefield. At least not if I'm asked my opinion on the topic.

(aka: Mk 1)

Legion 420 Jul 2017 4:13 p.m. PST

Yes, Mark I know all of that about mines, minefields, booby traps, etc. Ours and theirs, of course back then. ID'ing, emplacing, finding/detecting, marking, clearing, anti-handling devices, etc., etc. We spent a lot of time learning about those topics. Especially since I start training in '75. Shortly after the end of the War in SE Asia.

So I don't know what your point was quoting me, as I don't know if you are agreeing or not or adding context, etc.?

My understanding of the method of employment tells me that this particular tool, when used in mine clearing, is a bit more than 'everybody has to "be careful"' kind of thing.

And yes, whenever working with things that go "boom", it's the standard to be careful. The parenthesis were a bit of dark humor, hyperbole, etc. It's a given you'll "be careful" when working with explosives. Or try …

Like the instructors as parachute school, joked about if you have to use your Reserve you have to pay the Riggers $5. USD I.e. dark humor …

I know a lot of times we used to joke about that kind of stuff. Because many times things you are doing could be or are inherently dangerous.

careful" thing going on. More like a "somebody gets the extra-suck job today!" thing. Certainly wouldn't be my first choice for clearing a minefield. At least not if I'm asked my opinion on the topic.
Many that have been in the military know many "jobs" you are assigned/ordered to do, etc. will "extra-suck" x 10.

Like even on the DMZ in the ROK, every morning the field latrines were "cleaned" by burning the "waste matter" with diesel. Bring a new paradigm to the line "I love the smell of Bleeped text in the morning !" The older soldiers said that is just what they did in Vietnam too. So yeah, I'm sure that was an extra suck job.

And the SOP if you don't have Chem detectors, etc. after an enemy FA, etc., attack. The only way to check if it is all clear. Is the highest ranking troop orders the lowest ranking troop to remove his Pro-mask. If he does not have a reaction it's probably all clear. If he does … well we all know what the results could be … sadly … Yeah another extra-suck job.

And assuredly, using Bangalores to clear a minefield is not "the school solution". But just like the IDF did in '73. It probably came down to that may have been the only asset they had to do the "job". Even if it was not designed to so that "job". They adapted to overcome the "problem". As we know that is what military leaders do. If they are worth their rank. So yeah it must have been a "suck" job. But it appears they had to do it to carry on and complete their mission(s).

And in many cases many of the troops are not asked their opinion. A PL & PSG or SLs may be in the planning. But not always. As we know as history-philes, the military is No a democracy. wink

Eclaireur21 Jul 2017 6:25 a.m. PST

Mark 1
wasn't the assumption in many armies that a massive preparatory artillery bombardment would cut wire and destroy mines? I've certainly seen that assumption in orders given in WW1. In WW2 you can imagine the Red Army, using those massive gun lines and katyushas would have expected to disrupt minefields with over-pressure and blast.

Interestingly the MCLC concept was in use in WW2 in the shape of the Conger, which I think was the first rocket-propelled line charge. Like so many of those armoured engineer innovations, British :-)
Prior to Conger coming in the task of deliberate minefield breaching was generally done at night by guys on their bellies lifting out the mines + marking lanes. The Alamein orders are interesting in this context.

But if anyone has anything to add on US Army WW2 practice, would be most interesting…

Legion 421 Jul 2017 6:54 a.m. PST

That is a good point EC. But in some cases minefields and certainly "booby traps" were not marked. For obvious reasons, of course.

And sometimes, the "stealthy" approach was used. As prep of the battlefield by FA, etc., was not appropriate or desired, etc. E.g. the dismounted night attack, using one of the Principles of War – Surprise. Going along with Sun Tzu's concept of deception, as we all are familiar with, etc.

the task of deliberate minefield breaching was generally done at night by guys on their bellies lifting out the mines + marking lanes.
Yes, I remember back in '75 and after that. We were trained to find mines and booby traps. In a similar manner as was done in previous conflicts, as you mentioned.

Not what one would want to do if it could be avoided. wink

Wolfhag21 Jul 2017 11:51 a.m. PST

I remember being trained to probe for mines with a bayonet.

Here is the Brits doing the same: YouTube link

Then there is the safe method of herding cattle or sheep into a potential mine field or getting troops to lock arms and march over it like the Russians did.


Legion 422 Jul 2017 8:11 a.m. PST

We even were trained to use a twig to probe. As the mine may have a magnetic detonator.

But sending a herd of cows, sheep or pigs across could work too ! huh? wink

LORDGHEE22 Jul 2017 10:45 a.m. PST

Do not forget the Bangalore torpedo


The Writer of the Big Red One was a D Day vet and had strong feelings for the inventor.

the Bangalore Torpedo was the Engineers friend useful for cutting track cutting bridges cutting well you get the ideal.

Still in use today.

Wolfhag22 Jul 2017 12:10 p.m. PST

I was reading a WWII book written by a Russian tank commander that had M4 Shermans during the war. Commanding the Red Army's Sherman Tanks: The World War II Memoirs of Hero of the Soviet Union Dmitriy Loza.

He claims they came to a German minefield and needed to pass through quickly but no mine clearing equipment was available. One of his tank commanders had the idea that if they moved over the mines quickly enough the delay of the detonator in the German Tellermine would allow the Sherman to pass over the mine before it detonated. In the book, it claims the Sherman moving at full speed was able to pass over the mine quickly enough that it blew after the tank had passed by it.

You can choose to believe his story or not.


Legion 422 Jul 2017 3:07 p.m. PST

the Bangalore Torpedo was the Engineers friend useful for cutting track cutting bridges cutting well you get the ideal.

Still in use today.

Yep, as I said, only trained with them once, in '86 (?) IIRC. old fart They could be quite effective and could have a number of uses if one uses their imagination. So yes, they could be used to clear mines … But that was not what they were originally designed for. And like any mine clearing, everybody has to "be careful" …

Sherman moving at full speed was able to pass over the mine quickly enough that it blew after the tank had passed by it.
Wow ! I don't know if that is true or not but that would be one of the last ways I'd like to cross a minefield … huh?
But as we know some times those Russkies could be a sneaky lot ! wink

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