Only the well-funded geniuses at DARPA would describe their creation of hopping, networked explosives as "Self-Healing Mines."
No, the mines don't fit prosthetic limbs to maimed victims. So where does the Mine, Heal Thyself bit come from, then? It refers to the mines' "self-healing" ability to regroup by jumping up to 30m at a time and reform a solid wall after a tank, for example, has penetrated a minefield.
DARPA developed the mines for two reasons: first, the military needed a way for mines to react during enemy advances to stop troops from marching through a breach in a minefield; second, these anti-tank mines may eliminate the need for anti-personnel mines as they can move on their own.
Charities across the world are calling for the abolition of anti-personnel mines because of the havoc they wreak upon soldiers and civilians, often years after conflict has ended.
Anti-personnel explosives are designed to maim and disfigure anyone near them. According to The Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), 18,000 people are injured by mines each year.
The VVAF said moving away from anti-personnel mines is a good thing.
"The anti-tank mines are less of a concern," said Marissa Vitagliano, director of research at VVAF. "We would like there to be no victim activated weapons period, but we are in favor of any alternatives to anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, as long as they have a man in the loop and are under control."
It's unclear how under control DARPA's hopping mines are due to their ability to move about on their own accord.
Some designs have the mines connected via short-range radio networks with algorithms measuring out distances between each mine and planning the best way to reform as group. Other approaches have the mines connected via a wireless network. Some of the mines move using rocket thrusters, others use a hopping mechanism and hold enough fuel to make 100 leaps.
Early indications show the hopping mines will kill as no mines have killed before.
"Since the minefield is no longer a static obstacle, an open breach cannot be maintained," DARPA said. "The Self-Healing Minefield forces the enemy to attack the minefield and deplete the antitank mines surrounding the breaching lane by either repeated assaults or a wide area breach/clearance."
Which is not nice.
These mines can be passed only by an all out suicide march, and, if an opposing army turns away instead, civilians face an ever-changing, hopping aggressor engineered by the U.S's finest minds.
The animation provided by DARPA on the mines is a must see. The same brains that created the Internet have clearly mastered Flash as well. Watch it till to the end, as the Knight chess piece gives you a wink.
DARPA has already run tests with the hopping mines and wants to soon move the project along to the U.S. Army. ®