Cold War Weapons: The Off-Route Mine

During the Cold War NATO was understandably interested in capable anti-armour weapons. In this video/article we will examine the Off-Route Mine which features in footage from several British Army training films. They show a team of Royal Engineers setting up an L14A1 off-route mine ready to ambush attacking Soviet tanks.

Unlike a conventional mine which detonated vertically when a vehicle drove over it, the Off-Route Mine would be tripped by a breakwire set across a vehicles likely path. When the wire was tripped or broken the mine’s charge would be electrically detonated and the blast would project horizontally.

An Off-Route Mine in position (IWM)

What the British termed the L14A1 was developed in the early 1970s by France’s state arsenals. In French service it was known as the ‘Mine Anti char à action horizontale Modèle F1′ (or MI AC AH F1). It was manufactured throughout the 1970s and 80s by GIAT Industries.

The mine was essentially an electrically fired shape charge, it used the Misznay-Schardin effect rather than the Monroe effect. The former relies on a shallower, concave shape charge, which has a copper cone that is super heated by the explosion and fired out towards the target. This gave it the ability to project its cone further and removed the need for it to detonate in contact with the target vehicle. 

An illustration of how the Off-Route Mine works from a British Army manual

The mine had an effective range of between 70 to 80 metres and according to the 1977 French manual the projectile created by the detonation could travel up to 6km. In terms of the mine’s effectiveness the same manual states that 40m was the optimal range but no closer than 2m.

The manual also notes that “the slightest obstacle in the trajectory of the projectile (such as earth or shrubs) considerably reduces performance.” The diagram below from a 1977 French Army manual shows the effect of the mine on 70mm of armour at 40m, with 0-degrees of angle.

Effect diagram from 1977 French Army manual

When detonated the mine could throw fragments in a radius of 100m and could throw armour shards from a successful strike up to 200m from the target. The British mines came in the L27A1 kit which included a pair of the L14A1 off-route mines as well as instructions, the break wires, a night sighting tool, and an adjustable stand for mounting.

The mine’s electorally-powered detonator was powered by D cell batteries, which Sappers complained had to be frequently changed. The mine itself weighed 12kg and was packed with just over 6kg of Hexolite explosive. There was also a training version, the L28A1, which fired a paint-filled sponge to mark the side of the vehicle and confirm a hit. 

A Sapper setting up an Off-Route Mine (IWM)

The Miacah F1 was removed from French service in 2001. An improved version, the F2, was manufactured in 1996 and used by the French until the mines were withdrawn in 2004 due to corrosion. While some mines may have remained in stores, as some have been seen as late as 2016, they contravened the 1997 Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines because the break wire could in theory be tripped by a human rather than a vehicle.

It was replaced in British service by the ARGES off-round Anti-Tank Mine which fired a modified 94mm rocket with a tandem HEAT warhead. In 1997 it was reported that 4870 Off-Route mines were held by British Army stores, in line with the Ottawa Treaty this had been reduced to 0 by 1999.


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Bibliography:

Landmine Monitor Report, 2004, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, (source)
Landmine Monitor Report, 2000, Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, (source)
CNEMA Report, 2000 (source)
British Army User Handbook, Mine Anti-Tank Kit L27A1 (Off Route Mine), 1980
French Army MIACAH F1 Manual, 1977

Footage:

Fighting In Woods, British Army training film, 1982, (held by the IWM, DRA 1472)
Fighting In Villages, British Army training film, 1979, (held by the IWM, DRA 1401)

Fighting On Film: Cold War British Army Training Films – Soviet Encounter & Fighting In Woods

Grab your SLR and LAW 80 and jump in the back of the FV432, the Soviet 3rd Shock Army is on the advance! This week we dive into a pair of British Army training films Fighting In Woods (1982) and Soviet Encounter (1983) with Dr. Kenton White – an expert on the Cold War British Army. These well-made films show a potential (and somewhat optimistic) scenario of how the British Army would have fought the Warsaw Pact if the Cold War had ever gone hot! 

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

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Cold War British Army Threat Recognition Guide

It’s the 1980s and the British Army Of the Rhine is still stationed in West Germany facing down the USSR’s forces. The Cold War has gotten hot and the 3rd Shock Army is approaching your dugout but how do you differentiate a BTR from a BMP? This handy British Army THREAT Recognition Guide booklet gives you everything you need to know about the Soviet armour, infantry and aircraft you’re facing!

Continuing on from our earlier look at a British Army threat Recognition Guide to Iraqi Ground Forces issued during the Gulf War, we dig into the TAB reference collection again and take a look at this Threat Recognition Guide looking at Soviet air and ground forces facing the British Army of the Rhine in the 1980s.

The Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) in East Germany throughout the Cold War were an ever present threat to West Germany and NATO. This recognition guide covers all of the USSR’s main battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, as well as artillery systems and some of the close support aircraft which would have accompanied the attacking Soviet forces.

The pages of the recognition guide include photographs, diagrams, basic specs and recognisable features of the various enemy vehicles. It was put together by the Intelligence Directorate of BAOR’s 1 Corps.


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