There are 80 to 110 million mines in the world. In addition to killing and wounding innocent civilians, they prevent growth and development in emerging or rebuilding countries, impede repairs to infrastructure, disrupt humanitarian aid shipments, and destroy the morale of civilians living close to minefields. The Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining R&D Program is working to make land mine and unexploded ordnance clearance faster, safer, and easier by making cutting-edge demining technologies available to NGOs, demining centers, and U.S. military personnel around the world.
In the aftermath of Operation Allied Force, the aerial bombing campaign to stop the Serbian “ethnic cleansing” of the Kosovan Albanian population, 34,744 live unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs are believed to be on the ground in Kosovo, each one capable of exploding at the slightest touch and killing or injuring innocent civilians. They also complicate the clearing of minefields. Explosives were difficult to bring in to Kosovo and would have resulted in a huge number of additional widely scattered metallic fragments, complicating mine detection. A nonexplosive method was needed to destroy these ordnances, one at a time.
AT&L professionals in the DoD Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program developed the Thiokol, or Humanitarian Demining (HD) Flare. Made from excess production space shuttle solid propellant fuel, these flares neutralize mines and unexploded ordnances by quickly burning through the casing and igniting the explosive fill without detonation.