Surface Forces: Repackaging Mine Warfare

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August 31, 2006: The U.S. Navy is again reorganizing its mine warfare capabilities. The 'mine warfare' community is a the smallest in the navy. Most of the mine warfare personnel (4,000 of them) are stationed at a naval base at Ingleside, Texas. About half the current fleet of minesweepers are being sold off to foreign countries. On the plus side, the navy mine hunters are getting a lot of new equipment, including many seagoing robots and portable 'mine hunter kits' that can be carried by destroyers, cruisers, amphibious ships and, especially, the new LCS class of 3,000 ton coastal warships.
Despite the fact that some 70 percent of U.S. Navy combat losses in the past sixty years were caused by naval mines, there was never much enthusiasm for spending a lot of money on mine hunting and clearing. This was not the case with most other nations. The American attitude towards naval mines is apparently due to the fact that the United States never had its ports threatened with enemy mines, and has always had a huge fleet that usually operated on the high seas. Naval mines are a coastal weapon. But even the U.S. Navy has to operate along the coasts from time to time. And since the end of the Cold War, that is even more the case.
But rather than take the traditional approach of using lots of small, mine hunting ships, the U.S. Navy prefers the more portable, high tech approach. Makes sense, in that these electronic sled (towed by helicopters) and unmanned boats and subs, can be air lifted to American warships, anywhere in the world, on short notice. The navy has tested all this new gear on the latest models of naval mines, but won't say exactly how those tests turned out (lest any potential enemies learn how to make their mines even more effective.) But apparently the results were good enough to justify this new direction in dealing with mines.
The United States itself is prepared to deliver high tech naval mines by air, or submarine.

 


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