Surface Forces: Mine Hunters For Taiwan


March 9, 2012: Taiwan is getting two used American Osprey class coastal mine hunters. Each of the Ospreys will cost $53 million, mainly for refurbishment, upgrades, and training. Five years ago the U.S. Navy decommissioned its twelve Osprey mine hunting ships. The Ospreys entered service in the 1990s, and are 893 ton, 61 meter (188 foot) long ships that require a crew of 51 and carry mine hunting sonar and gear for destroying any mines found.

The Ospreys are being replaced by LCS ships carrying the mine countermeasures module. The LCS is about three times larger than the Ospreys and may not be able to go places the Ospreys could go. LCS is supposed to be the Navy's green/brown water "solution" but many counter-mine experts believe it is too big for the mine clearing job. The LCS costs a heck of a lot more and is still not available, leaving the U.S. with only a handful of mine warfare vessels of the somewhat larger Avenger Class (MCM-1), which run about 1,400 tons.

Counter Mine operations have always gotten the short end of the stick in the U.S. Navy. This is more a tradition than a conscious decision to downplay this threat. American sailors have always been able to scramble and overcome naval mines during the few instances where a lot of them were encountered. One of these days, that famous luck will run out. Meanwhile, Taiwan will have a little of what the U.S. once had in the mine hunting department.



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