Clearing a mine field can often be dangerous, expensive, and very time-consuming work. And one of the most difficult types of areas to clear can be beaches and shallow water. There, the mines are often placed deep under the surface so they can be difficult for individual personnel or even robots to get to safely, and are deep enough that the conventional way of clearing a field quickly--peppering it with high explosive shells--may not always be very effective.
The answer to this roblem is a new type of ordnance the US Navy is developing, a cylindrical bombshell deploying up to 6500 individual .50-caliber Venom darts. Released from over a thousand feet up, the bomb is guided by GPS. Its spinning motion helps it to release and evenly distribute a dense "swarm" of darts thousands strong over an area 60 feet wide.
The darts hit at a speed of 1200 feet per second, a bit slower than a small caliber bullet. But like the Russian Shkval torpedo, the new Venom darts are designed to self-cavitate—that is, form a pocket of air around themselves to greatly reduce friction. This allows them to penetrate far deeper into soft media than most conventional types of rounds. A Venom dart can typically penetrate two feet of sand and up to seven feet of water without significant deviation.
When a dart hits a mine, it will inject one of three types of payload into the device: a compound called DETA (diethylene triamine) which chemically neutralizes TNT and similar explosives; a reactive powder that breaks apart the mine by increasing internal pressure; or a compact explosive that detonates the mine upon impact.
Darts that do not strike mines are designed to ‘self sterilize,’ i.e. self-destruct, to insure the cleared area is safe for human operators afterward. Because of their blunt-nosed cavitation design and relatively low impact velocity, these bombs would likely not be too effective against hard-surface targets or against personnel.
After the technology is perfected (a fieldable system is projected to be ready by 2015), smaller versions of this technology may be developed to be used by other delivery systems, such as mortars or even hand-held launchers.
"Beach Cleanup" by Bjorn Carey, Popular Science, May 2007, pp. 34-35
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