Images courtesy Naval Surface Warfare Center
The Navy's latest weapon in the fight against land mines makes uses of a modified JDAM

The U.S. Navy has developed a new countermine projectile that could end up saving lives on the battlefield. The projectile will be used to clear mine fields on beaches and within the breaker zone.

The Navy is using a modified version of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) which houses thousands of "Venom Penetrator" darts. Each Venom Penetrator is roughly six inches long and is tipped with hardened tungsten. Inside each dart is liquid diethylene triamine (DETA).

The JDAM is dropped from an aircraft as it approaches the minefield. Once the JDAM is roughly 1,000 feet over the target area, the munition fragments and the Venom Penetrators are hurtled towards the ground at 300 meters per second.

Thanks to its hardened tungsten nose, each Venom dart is able to travel to a depth of ten to twelve feet under water or up to 2 feet under sand. The force of impact from the projectile should trigger a landmine to explode in most cases. If the mine is not triggered on impact, the alkaline-based DETA solution delivered by the Venom Penetrator neutralizes the landmine by corroding its explosive filling.

Despite being a promising technology in the countermine offensive, there are critics of the system. "With the dart method, it may be difficult to say whether the explosive has been safely burned away or whether the mine is still dangerous," said Adam Komorowski of the Mines Advisory Group.

For more information on the development of the Venom Penetrator, you can view the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division 2005 Quarterly report (PDF).

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