Weapons: Volcano Returns To Service


January 17, 2017: The U.S. Army is taking its M126 (truck mounted) and M139 (UH-60 mounted) Volcano mine dispenser systems out of storage and putting them back in active service. Developed in the late 1980s for Cold War type battles against Russian attacks employing lots (hundreds or thousands) of armor vehicles, Volcano got some limited use in the 1990s but was put into storage after 2001. Volcano uses short range mortar tubes to launch canisters of mostly anti-vehicle mines (which are designed to disable a vehicle by blowing off a tire or breaking the track on a tank or other armored vehicle) and some anti-personnel mines to make it more difficult for enemy troops to quickly clear the anti-vehicle mines out of the way.

Each U.S. Army aviation brigade had three of the M139 systems, which were seen as an ideal weapon when you had to quickly weaken and slow down an advancing enemy armor force. While it took four hours to mount the three ton M139 on a UH-60, once that was done the UH-60 could be placed on standby and quickly sent off to the area to be mined. The M139 operator on the helicopter could set the self-destruct time for the mines (from 4 hours to 15 days) and trigger release of the mines. The M139 could dispense 960 mines in less than a minute and create a mined area 1,100 meters long 120 meters deep. The M126 Volcano dispensers were mounted on trucks and could take up to 12 minutes to dispense those 960 mines. M126 could do it faster (in as little as four minutes) depending on terrain.

Britain built its own version of Volcano and called it Shielder anti-vehicle system. Based on licensed Volcano tech, Shielder entered service in 1995 and saw some use in Iraq during the 2003 invasion. Shielder can put anti-vehicle mines into an area 1,000 meters wide, and ten meters deep, in less than a minute. The Shielder mortars are mounted on a modified Stormer armored vehicle (but can be mounted on a flatbed trucks as well.) The anti-vehicle mines deactivate after a set period of time (so they cannot be reused by the enemy.) The mines are similar to those used in the American version. Shielder was withdrawn from service, mainly for budgetary reasons, in 2012.


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