Finland develops 'bounding' mine as military deterrence

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland is developing a remotely-detonated mine designed to deter enemies with its “horror”, the country’s defense minister said on Thursday, referring to a device that springs into the air and fires projectiles at its target when triggered.

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Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto said the defense forces were developing the so-called bounding mine to replace landmines banned by a 1999 international treaty. Its main targets would be soldiers and vehicles.

“This is a remotely tripped explosive, which bounds in the air and fires steel or tungsten bullets downwards,” the minister told reporters.

“This gives quite a good regional effect and deterrence effect, the so called mine horror. This is being tested now.”

In 2011, Finland became the last European Union country to ratify the 1999 Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

Finland’s ratification has lately come in for criticism domestically from some Finns who argue landmines could be effective in defending the country’s long borders.

Finland shares a 1,340km (833 miles) border and a difficult history with Russia, and following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has stepped up military spending.

Niinisto said he was not aware of a similar explosive being used somewhere else, and the Finnish weapon would always be fired by its operator.

According to the Ottawa Treaty, the launcher of such a mine must have direct visual contact with the location upon triggering it, a ministry official specified. The mines banned by the convention involve explosives set off by the proximity of, or contact with, the target.

“This is an explosive that fits well into the Finnish terrain... traditional mines explode upwards or sideways. This fires downwards, so it is more difficult to take cover from it,” Niinisto said.

He added that he had seen international interest for the weapon.

Niinisto, who considers the ratification of the Ottawa convention to have been a mistake, also said that Finland could relinquish the landmine ban during a crisis where “all agreements have become meaningless papers”.

Finland has compulsory military service for all men and it is one of six members of the EU that have not also joined NATO.

In recent years, however, it has forged closer ties with the Western military alliance, while stepping defense cooperation with other Nordic countries.

While backed by most countries, the Ottawa treaty has not been signed by a number of countries including the United States, China, India, and Russia.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, Editing by William Maclean