The Mar­itime Mine Hunters

It is un­der­stood that the ac­qui­si­tion process will start again with the in­vite sent to Kang­nam Cor­po­ra­tion, In­ter­ma­rine of Italy, Na­van­tia of spain, Lock­heed Martin of us, ThyssenKrupp of Ger­many and rus­sian ship­yards

SP's NavalForces - - FRONT PAGE - LT GEN­ERAL NARESH CHAND (RETD)

It is un­der­stood that the ac­qui­si­tion process will start again with the in­vite sent to Kang­nam Cor­po­ra­tion, In­ter­ma­rine of Italy, Na­van­tia of Spain, Lock­heed Martin of US, ThyssenKrupp of Ger­many and Rus­sian ship­yards

Lt Gen­eral Naresh Chand (Retd)

NAVAL MINe huNters sAy that, “a mine is a ter­ri­ble thing that waits.” It waits and waits till it de­stroys/dam­ages a naval ves­sel or is de­stroyed by the naval mine hunters. Dur­ing oper­a­tion star­va­tion in 1945, the us Navy dumped close to 25,000 mines on the vi­tal water routes and ports to dis­rupt en­emy ship­ping and starve Ja­pan. hun­dreds of mines re­mained in the wa­ters for decades and en­dan­gered ship­ping dur­ing peace­time. sea mines are full of stealth and de­ceit, lurk­ing dan­ger­ously to de­stroy/dam­age and dis­rupt naval oper­a­tions and mer­chant ship­ping. 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.

Naval Mines

the ba­sic sea mine is det­o­nated when a ship comes in con­tact with it and causes an elec­tri­cal cir­cuit to be com­pleted that ac­ti­vates the ex­plo­sive through a highly-sen­si­tive fuse or ini­tia­tor within a op­er­at­ing ra­dius of 50 to 60m. sea water is very cor­ro­sive and ef­fects ev­ery ob­ject in the sea in­clud­ing mines which be­came in­ef­fec­tive or un sta­ble af­ter some time. the prob­lem of longevity was solved as early as the 1870s with a de­vice called the hertz horn which con­tained a vial of con­duc­tive liq­uid. the vial broke due to the con­tact of the ship with the horn, it would com­plete the cir­cuit which ini­ti­ated the ex­plo­sion. the same prin­ci­ple was used for burst­ing ar­tillery shells in the air where the vial broke due to the set back force and the cir­cuit was com­pleted thereby ini­ti­ated the burst­ing of the shell. Many coun­tries de­vel­oped in­flu­ence mines which em­ployed a va­ri­ety of sen­sors that ac­ti­vated the mine when a ship sailed in prox­im­ity to it. sen­sors used are based on en­gine sound, pres­sure of waves due to the move­ment of the ship and mag­netic field or a com­bi­na­tion of these meth­ods of det­o­na­tion. there are other va­ri­eties like the Lim­pet mine which is man­u­ally at­tached to the tar­get by mag­nets ;com­mand det­o­na­tion mines; rocket mine; tor­pedo mine; Moored mine; Dummy mine and so on. the moored mine is de­ployed where water is too deep for bot­tom mines and nor­mally uses a com­bi­na­tion of acous­tic, mag­netic and pres­sure sen­sors or even more sophisticated op­ti­cal shad­ows or elec­tro po­ten­tial sen­sors. re­cently a new class of at­tack­ing mines have 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 ranges, sen­si­tive to fast-mov­ing tar­gets in­clud­ing sub­marines; mod­erni­sa­tion of cur­rent ex­ploders and de­vel­op­ment of mul­ti­pur­pose ex­ploders; de­vel­op­ment of mul­ti­pur­pose trans­portable mines; re­duc- tion of tar­get at­tack time and si­mul­ta­ne­ous en­hance­ment of re­li­a­bil­ity and noise im­mu­nity of mines and so on.

Con­cept of Mine Coun­ter­mea­sures (MCMO)

the MCMo oper­a­tions are in­ter con­nected oper­a­tions that en­able naval forces to counter the mine threat and are:

Map­ping, Sur­vey and In­tel­li­gence Oper­a­tions. It can­not be predicted as to the ex­act area where naval oper­a­tions will be un­der­taken but it cer­tain that naval forces will encounter tech­ni­cally sophisticated mine in the lit­torals and other ar­eas of in­ter­est. thus dur­ing peace­time sus­tained ef­fort is re­quired for bot­tom-map­ping and en­vi­ron­men­tal sur­vey along with an ac­tive mine threat in­tel­li­gence to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive and ex­haus­tive data col­lec­tion counter mine oper­a­tions. this re­quires high level of Com­mand, Con­trol, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Com­put­ers and In­tel­li­gence(C4I) and data anal­y­sis pro­grammes.

Sur­veil­lance Oper­a­tions. It is es­sen­tial to con­tin­u­ously up­date the data base with ad­e­quate sur­veil­lance and in­tel­li­gence as­sets. this will re­sult in ac­quir­ing an up­dated and in­creas­ingly de­tailed assessment of mine pro­duc­tion, stock­pile lo­ca­tions, mine-lay­ing plat­form lo­ca­tions, and readi­ness of a po­ten­tial ad­ver­sary’s min­ing force.

Or­ganic MCMO. the goal of or­ganic mine coun­ter­mea­sure oper­a­tions is to en­able naval forces to con­duct their warfight­ing mis­sions with­out be­ing ex­posed to the risks of oper­a­tions in mined wa­ters un­til the ar­rival of ded­i­cated MCM forces. this will help the non MCM force to shape the bat­tle space by de­tect­ing and avoid­ing oper­a­tions in mined wa­ters.

Ded­i­cated Mine Coun­ter­mea­sure Oper­a­tions. Ded­i­cated MCMo are con­ducted to clear en­emy mine­fields, to fur­ther shape the bat­tle space, and to project power from the sea. Air­borne, sur­face, and shal­low water MCM forces sup­ported by ex­plo­sive ord­nance Dis­posal divers and Naval special War­fare forces, are used to con­duct ded­i­cated MCMo.

Mine Coun­ter­mea­sures Ves­sel (MCMV)

MCMV is a naval ship de­signed for the car- rying out the twin role of minesweeper and mine-hunter. It thus lo­cates the mines then de­stroys them. oper­a­tion over­lord was the largest op­posed am­phibi­ous as­sault of the sec­ond World War (June 6, 1944). It in­volved cross­ing the english Chan­nel by more than 5,000 ves­sels and about 160,000 troops, and was the most dif­fi­cult and costly MCM oper­a­tion. the ex­ten­sive mine field and ob­sta­cle clear­ance was car­ried out by more than 300 MCM ships, swim­mers, and large num­ber of sup­port­ing forces. such a large mine sweep­ing oper­a­tion will prob­a­bly never be seen again. 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 mine-hunt­ing sonar 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/sLQ48 teth­ered mine neu­tral­iza­tion sys­tem (MNs) to iden­tify and ren­der in­op­er­a­tive sea mines. the AN/sLQ-48 is a re­cov­er­able, sub­mersible which car­ries high-def­i­ni­tion sonar for reac­qui­si­tion and a low-light-level TV and flood­lights for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the tar­get. the MNs places an ex­plo­sive charge near the bot­tom or moored mine tar­get to de­stroy the mine in place. It re­ceives its com­mands and power from the mother ship. 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.

Other Plat­forms used for MCMV role. un­manned un­der­wa­ter Ve­hi­cle can be of im­mense value to the MCMo. MCMo can be car­ried out by he­li­copters like siko­rsky’s s-80/Mh-53e (sea Dragon). the Mh-53e is a mul­ti­pur­pose heli­copter em­ployed for ver­ti­cal re­plen­ish­ment and air­borne MCM. It has three en­gines, equip­ment for tow­ing the eoD Mk 105 hy­dro­foil anti-mine sled, AN/AQs-14 side-look­ing mine-hunt­ing sonar, a va­ri­ety of mine sweep­ing 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. 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, neu­tral­ize, and ex­ploit mines as well as par­tic­i­pate in post-in­ter­dic­tion in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion. Dol­phin’s bi­o­log­i­cal sonar called echo lo­ca­tion, is good at de­tect­ing mines. the Cal­i­for­nian sea Lion also dis­plays sim­i­lar traits thus the us Navy has launched a unique Naval Marine Mam­mal pro­gramme 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.

In­dian Per­spec­tive

In­dia in­her­ited mine sweeper ves­sels from uK which were wooden hulled ves­sels and were sub­se­quently re­placed by soviet ori­gin minesweep­ers (pondicherry class) in the 70s. 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 De­fense (MoD) ap­proved the in­duc­tion of a new gen­er­a­tion of MCMVs. the MCMVs were to have high-res­o­lu­tion sonar for de­tect­ing mines and then neu­tralise 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 Goa ship­yard Lim­ited (GsL), which had been mod­ernised for this pur­pose. the ac­qui­si­tion went through many twists and turns when the rfp for con­struc­tion and tech­nol­ogy as­sis­tance was sent to many com­pa­nies. the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Com­mit­tee had cleared nom­i­na­tion of GsL for con­struc­tion of 12 MCMV ves­sels in fe­bru­ary 2015 in col­lab­o­ra­tion with south Korea’s Kang­nam Cor­po­ra­tion. Dur­ing Jan­uary 8, 2018, the In­dian Govern­ment can­celled the ten­der due to dif­fer­ences in pric­ing and mode of trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy. It is un­der­stood that the ac­qui­si­tion process will start again with the in­vite sent to Kang­nam Cor­po­ra­tion, In­ter­ma­rine of Italy, Na­van­tia of spain, Lock­heed Martin of us, thyssenKrupp of Ger­many and rus­sian ship­yards. It ap­pears that the ‘Make in In­dia’ for de­fence is floun­der­ing due to high cost of trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy by for­eign oeMs. It is hoped that the is­sue is re­solved and this im­por­tant op­er­a­tional void is soon made up.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: US Navy

Avenger class mine counter-mea­sures ship USS Sen­try

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