Mine Coun­ter­mea­sure Ve­hi­cles in the Navy

ÒMCMV pro­ject, for which this world-class in­fra­struc­ture has been cre­ated, will not only strengthen the na­tionÕs mar­itime se­cu­rity but also cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and speed up devel­op­ment of the re­gion.Ó Ñ Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, while ded


MCMV pro­ject, for which this world-class in­fra­struc­ture has been cre­ated, will not only strengthen the na­tion’s mar­itime se­cu­rity but also cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and speed up devel­op­ment of the re­gion. Lt Gen­eral Naresh Chand (Retd)

MINE COUNTERMEASURES (MCM) ARE re­quired to be taken against naval mines which were first in­tro­duced by the Chi­nese in the 16th cen­tury as an anti-piracy mea­sure and in the west al­most dur­ing the same pe­riod. They have been used ex­ten­sively since the 20th cen­tury on rivers and for sea oper­a­tions in­clud­ing both World Wars. Naval mines are an in­vis­i­ble enemy which al­lows any mar­itime na­tion to de­fend it­self, re­gard­less of its naval ca­pa­bil­ity. They de­ter and push un­der­wa­ter and sur­face navy to move away from the shore­line to­wards the open sea. A modern mine sys­tem is pri­mar­ily a mul­ti­func­tional de­vice which car­ries ex­plo­sives and can be ex­ploded by mul­ti­ple means like pulse mag­netic in­flu­ence, acous­tic-mag­netic, pres­sure through hy­dro­dy­nam­ics, acous­tic, elec­tric, etc. The mines ex­plode due to a highly-sen­si­tive fuse or ini­tia­tor with an op­er­at­ing ra­dius of 50 to 60 m which can be trig­gered by sound, pres­sure or mag­netic field pro­duced by ships when they pass within the op­er­at­ing ra­dius of the mines. Mines can be clas­si­fied by method of oper­a­tions like con­tact and in­flu­ence; by plant­ing method like moored, bot­tom and float­ing; and by mo­bil­ity into self-pro­pelled and fixed. Mine­fields can be con­trolled and un­con­trolled. Re­cently a new class of at­tack­ing mine has been de­vel­oped which is a com­bi­na­tion of a mine-car­ry­ing plat­form and a tor­pedo or

a mis­sile sys­tem. Mines can be planted by air­craft, sub­marines, sur­face ships, un­der­wa­ter ro­bots, and frog­men, as well as mer­chant ships, fish­ing ships, fer­ries and mo­tor boats. Some of the cur­rent and fu­ture de­vel­op­ments are greater op­er­at­ing range, sen­si­tive to fast-mov­ing tar­gets in­clud­ing sub­marines; mod­erni­sa­tion of cur­rent ex­ploders and devel­op­ment of multi-pur­pose ex­ploders; devel­op­ment of multi-pur­pose trans­portable mines; re­duc­tion of tar­get at­tack time and si­mul­ta­ne­ous en­hance­ment of re­li­a­bil­ity and noise im­mu­nity of mines and so on.

Mine Countermeasures Ves­sels (MCMV)

Op­er­a­tion Over­lord was the largest op­posed am­phibi­ous as­sault of World War II (June 6, 1944). It in­volved cross­ing the English Chan­nel by more than 5,000 ves­sels and about 1,60,000 troops, and was the most dif­fi­cult and costly MCM op­er­a­tion. The ex­ten­sive mine­field and ob­sta­cle clear­ance was car­ried out by more than 300 MCM ships, swim­mers and large num­ber of sup­port­ing forces. Such a large minesweep­ing op­er­a­tion will prob­a­bly never oc­cur again and the tech­nol­ogy has also come a long way since then. MCMVs are ded­i­cated sys­tems which pro­vide the op­er­a­tional com­man­ders with ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­quired to deal with the mine threat in the lit­torals and at sea. In the US they have ded­i­cated sys­tems to pro­vide in­te­grated MCM ca­pa­bil­ity which will en­able the ca­pa­bil­ity to main­tain sea bat­tlespace dom­i­nance across the spec­trum of po­ten­tial con­flicts. Ca­pa­bil­ity of MCMV sys­tems can be op­ti­mised with the sup­port of in­tel­li­gence and strike el­e­ments. In a way a MCMV sys­tem is akin to anti-sub­ma­rine and air de­fence war­fare. Such sys­tems are in­valu­able to Air­craft Car­rier Bat­tle and Am­phibi­ous Ready Groups. An ex­am­ple of US Navy’s MCM-1 is given briefly.

MCM and MCM-1 (Avenger) class of ships. The cur­rent MCM ships are ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing all mine-hunt­ing as­pects to in­clude de­tec­tion, clas­si­fi­ca­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and de­struc­tion. How­ever, the MCM-1 class can carry out minesweep­ing which in­cludes me­chan­i­cal sweep­ing against moored mines and mag­netic/acous­tic com­bi­na­tion in­flu­ence sweeps against moored and bot­tom in­flu­ence mines. The MCM-1 has the AN/SQQ-32 mine­hunt­ing sonar (in a vari­able-depth body) for mine de­tec­tion and clas­si­fi­ca­tion. It was de­vel­oped by Raytheon and Thales Un­der­wa­ter Sys­tems (for­merly Thom­son Mar­coni Sonar)and cur­rently fea­tures on all MCMVs of the US Navy. It re­lies on the AN/SLQ-48 teth­ered mine neu­tral­i­sa­tion sys­tem (MNS) to iden­tify and ren­der in­op­er­a­tive sea mines. MNS is a type of un­manned un­der­wa­ter ve­hi­cle which was de­vel­oped in the mid-1970s by the Naval Ocean Sys­tems Cen­ter and built ini­tially by Honey­well and then by Al­liant Tech­sys­tems. The AN/SLQ-48 is a re­cov­er­able, sub­mersible which car­ries high-def­i­ni­tion sonar for reac­qui­si­tion and a low-lightlevel TV and flood­lights for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the tar­get. The MNS places an ex­plo­sive charge near the bot­tom or moored mine tar­get in or­der to de­stroy the mine in place. It re­ceives its com­mands and power from the mother ship. MCM-1 plat­form can also de­ploy twin minesweep­ing sys­tems for bet­ter re­sults. A closed-loop de­gauss­ing sys­tem is be­ing de­vel­oped for the MCM-1 to lower the ship’s mag­netic sig­na­ture and re­duce the fre­quency of cal­i­bra­tion at de­gauss­ing ranges. De­gauss­ing is a method to de­crease or elim­i­nate a rem­nant mag­netic field.

Un­manned Un­der­wa­ter Ve­hi­cle (UUVs)

Many type of such ve­hi­cles are be­ing de­vel­oped for MCM oper­a­tions apart from other roles like search and res­cue, and hy­dro­graphic sur­vey. Ex­am­ple of one has been given above. These ve­hi­cles can be launched from a sub­merged plat­form and move to in­shore ar­eas au­tonomously. For am­phibi- ous oper­a­tions, the force has to move through the in­shore area (from the very shal­low wa­ter zone, with a depth from 10 ft to 40 ft) through the surf zone and the craft land­ing zone, and onto the beach through the beach exit zone. UAVs can be of im­mense value for MCM in such oper­a­tions.

Off­shore Mine War­fare Oper­a­tions

The Ex­plo­sive Ord­nance Dis­posal ( EOD) diver sys­tem and marine mam­mal sys­tem play a key role in off­shore mine war­fare oper­a­tions. EOD MCM de­tach­ments are em­ployed to iden­tify, neu­tralise, and ex­ploit mines as well as par­tic­i­pate in post-in­ter­dic­tion in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion. US Navy has dis­cov­ered that dol­phin’s bi­o­log­i­cal sonar called echo lo­ca­tion is good at de­tect­ing mines. The Cal­i­for­nian Sea Lion dis­plays sim­i­lar traits thus the US Navy has launched a unique Naval Marine Mam­mal Pro­gram to train dol­phins and sea li­ons to de­tect mines and other ob­jects. The EOD diver sys­tem and mam­mals are com­bined to work as a team.

Air­borne MCM. MCM can be also car­ried by he­li­copters and one such ex­am­ple is given below.

Siko­rskyÕs MH-53E (Sea Dragon). The MH-53E is a multi-pur­pose heli­copter em­ployed for ver­ti­cal re­plen­ish­ment and air­borne MCM. The orig­i­nal Siko­rsky S-65 pro­duc­tion model has only two en­gines but the S-80/H-53E has three en­gines and is the most pow­er­ful heli­copter ever built out­side Rus­sia. All CH-53As were de­liv­ered with pro­vi­sions for towed minesweep­ing equip­ment but the US Navy de­cided that a ded­i­cated MCM ver­sion would need more power and ad­di­tional mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Ac­cord­ingly, 15 CH-53As were trans­ferred to the US Navy as RH-53A minesweep­ing he­li­copters and equip­ment for tow­ing the EOD Mk 105 hy­dro­foil anti-mine sled. It can carry AN/AQS-14 side-look­ing mine­hunt­ing sonar, a va­ri­ety of minesweep­ing sys­tems in­clud­ing Mk 103 me­chan­i­cal sweep, Mk 104 acous­tic in­flu­ence sweep, Mk 106 com­bi­na­tion acous­tic and mag­netic in­flu­ence hy­dro­foil sled, AN/SPU-1/W Mag­netic Or­ange Pipe mag­netic in­flu­ence sweep (for shal­low wa­ter), AN/ALQ-141 dual acous­tic sweep, A/N 37U deep me­chan­i­cal sweep, and Mk 2(G) acous­tic in­flu­ence sweep. An air­borne MCM sys­tem is less risky than a sur­face MCMV and can carry out re­con­nais­sance ahead of the sur­face oper­a­tions.

The MCMV pro­ject in­volves the con­struc­tion of 12 MCMV at an ap­prox­i­mate cost of ` 32,000 crore (about $4.9 bil­lion), as part of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s vi­sion of ‘Make in In­dia’.

In­dian Per­spec­tive

In­dia in­her­ited minesweeper ves­sels from UK which were wooden hulled ves­sels and were sub­se­quently re­placed by Soviet ori­gin minesweep­ers (Pondicherry class) in the 1970s. How­ever, the break-up of for­mer Soviet Union cre­ated se­ri­ous prob­lems of main­te­nance and spares sup­port which was also ap­pli­ca­ble to all mil­i­tary hard­ware of Soviet ori­gin. Dur­ing mid-2004, the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) ap­proved the in­duc­tion of a new gen­er­a­tion of MCMVs. The MCMVs were to have high-res­o­lu­tion sonar for de­tect­ing mines and then neu-

tralise them with re­mote-con­trolled mine dis­posal sys­tems. The ships were to have lower acous­tic and mag­netic sig­na­tures and im­proved re­sis­tance to un­der­wa­ter ex­plo­sions. The plan was to have eight MCMVs to be con­structed by the Goa Ship­yard Lim­ited (GSL). The ac­qui­si­tion went through many twists and turns when the re­quest for ten­der for con­struc­tion and tech­nol­ogy as­sis­tance was sent to many com­pa­nies like In­ter­ma­rine of Italy, Kang­nam Cor­po­ra­tion of South Korea and IZAR of Spain, all cur­rent builders of MCMVs. A RFP was also sent later on to many ven­dors. The lat­est is that the MCMV pro­ject in­volves the con­struc­tion of 12 MCMV at an ap­prox­i­mate cost of 32,000 crore, as part of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s vi­sion of ‘Make in In­dia’. The MoD/De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil had cleared nom­i­na­tion of GSL for con­struc­tion of 12 MCMV ves­sels in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

In­vi­ta­tion for Techno-com­mer­cial Of­fers. GSL has in­vited Techno-com­mer­cial for 12 MCMVs to be made at GSL for In­dian Navy. Salient as­pects are: They will be built by GSL, a first for In­dia. The con­struc­tion of the first ves­sel is en­vis­aged to start in April 2018. First ves­sel will be de­liv­ered af­ter three years, i.e in April 2021.There­after one ves­sel will be de­liv­ered ev­ery six months. All 12 ves­sels will be de­liv­ered from April 2021 to Septem­ber 2026. The ves­sel are to be state-of-the-art with a dis­place­ment of 800-1,000 tonnes and length of 55-80 m. They are to be non­mag­netic in nature, hence all the ma­chin­ery, aux­il­iaries, equip­ments are to be made of non­mag­netic ma­te­rial. Use of fer­rous ma­te­ri­als is to be min­imised. Wher­ever in­evitable suit­able ‘ De­gauss­ing’ coils are to be pro­vided for re­duc­ing the mag­netic sig­na­ture. It is es­sen­tial that all prac­ti­ca­ble mea­sures should be taken to achieve a min­i­mum mag­netic sig­na­ture for the MCMVs. Fur­ther there is an op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide af­ter sales sup­port ser­vice to the ships with In­dian Navy dur­ing the en­vis­aged pe­riod of 25 years of ser­vice life. The fo­cus of the pro­ject is to in­crease the in­dige­nous con­tent. Pro­pos­als in­volv­ing higher in­dige­nous con­tent will be given higher pref­er­ence.

Mod­erni­sa­tion of GSL

The im­por­tance of ‘ Make in In­dia’ and the pro­posal to build 12 MCMVs at GSL is un­der­scored by the fact that Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ded­i­cated Phase 3A of GSL’s am­bi­tious in­fras­truc­tural mod­erni­sa­tion pro­ject to the na­tion and in­au­gu­rated the pro­duc­tion of Coast Guard OPV pro­ject, at an im­pres­sive cer­e­mony on Novem­ber 13, 2016, in the pres­ence of the De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar and other dis­tin­guished guests and mem­bers. The Prime Min­is­ter, while ded­i­cat­ing the fa­cil­ity to the na­tion, stated that ÒMCMV pro­ject, for which this world-class in­fra­struc­ture has been cre­ated, will not only strengthen the na­tion’s mar­itime se­cu­rity but also cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and speed up devel­op­ment of the re­gion. This pro­ject is an im­por­tant step to­wards self-re­liance in de­fence sec­tor, where till now we have been pre­dom­i­nantly de­pen­dent on the for­eign coun­tries. To­day at Goa, an im­por­tant step in the di­rec­tion of ‘Make in In­dia’ is be­ing taken to boost the mar­itime se­cu­rity.Ó

GSL has up­graded in­fra­struc­ture at a cost of ` 700 crore, in or­der to build MCMVs. The in­fra­struc­ture will en­able con­struc­tion of GRP (glass-re­in­forced plas­tic) hulls for MCMVs first time in In­dia. This will be an unique fa­cil­ity avail­able only in Goa and will put In­dia in the elite com­pany of only five-six coun­tries, which boast of this fa­cil­ity in the world.

Ca­pa­bil­ity of MCMV sys­tems can be op­ti­mised with the sup­port of in­tel­li­gence and strike el­e­ments. In a way a MCMV sys­tem is akin to an­ti­sub­ma­rine and air de­fence war­fare.


An MH-53E Sea Dragon as­signed to Heli­copter Mine Counter Mea­sure Squadron con­ducts a mine sweep­ing ex­er­cise

(Top) US Navy mine countermeasures ship USS Avenger and (above) US Navy USS Scout.


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