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US Navy not looking forward on Naval Mine Clearing?


Belesarius
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http://navy-matters.blogspot.ca/2015/05/combat-mcm.html

 

A rather long, but interesting essay on Naval Mine Clearing in varying environments.

 

Interesting evaluation of USN capeabilities.  I'd like to hear peoples thoughts on this, and possible concepts for moving forward.

 

I'm not sold on this article because it proposes a requirement of mine-clearing while under fire. I don't think you should really do this to begin with - eliminate the enemy naval and air assets first or reduce them significantly before you begin MCM operations sounds much more sensible. Indeed, the last time I can recall that a fleet tried to clear minefields while under fire was Dardanelles, and that resulted in three pre-dreadnoughts being sunk due to an undetected minefield. Even in all of the wargames I've played the only scenario that required the USN to mine-clear while under fire was a pretty ridiculous EU + Russia vs US scenario wherein a CVBG was evacuating from the Med through Gibraltar; and the EU/Russia had to resort to limited strikes against the MCM helicopters because their air power was so decimated by the CVBG..

 

Moreover, I think people are a bit too hard on the LCS for MCMing. You want mine-clearing to be done by a relatively small ship with few crew, so that you minimize inevitable losses; and the primary mine-clearing asset in any case is in fact the ship's helicopter.

 

If you want faster mine-clearing as proposed in the "Contested" scenario you'll actually need a small fleet of helicopters, which means dedicating an LHD (which is what the article proposed, albeit the ship carries only four helicopters which I think is really inadequate for fast clearing) or significant deck space on a full carrier.

 

Which again goes back to my original point - wouldn't it be better to instead have more fighter and strike craft on your LHD/carrier and eliminate the other threats entirely before getting to work on mine-clearance? Indeed, by having less space for fighter and strike craft you're leaving yourself open to having the enemy target your MCM LHD specifically and wipe out all your MCM assets in one go.

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That and decent mine clearing assets tend to start at hellishly expensive and only go up from there. Having to sanitize the area first does cut down pretty severely on the ability to pick a spot there and be delivering troops before the enemy can react though. I wonder how stuff that goes underwater is coming along.

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They're keenly aware of the problem, but anti-mine warfare is hideously expensive to the point where they know only having enough stuff for one anti-mine op is a serious problem when the criteria to deal with two threats at once or in quick order is a thing but answers aren't forthcoming.

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Individual mines may be cheap but minefields are not. The initial outlay of hundreds if not thousands of mines is just part of the cost, because the sea is very unforgiving and you need to keep replacing mines as they breakdown due to saltwater and the waves.

 

Moreover, you need to keep updating mines, because if the enemy is able to get a working copy they are much more able to deploy counter-measures against them. For instance the German magnetic mine was very effective in the early days of World War 2, but as soon as the Brits captured a working one they figured out that its trigerring mechanism could be countered by installing cheap degaussing gear on their ships. An immediate drop in mine-related losses soon followed.

 

And in any case minefields in the modern world tend to be mostly small, deployed very quickly in advance of a known operation using aircraft and small craft; because the navies that really use them know for a fact that they stand no chance in an open battle and the best they can hope for is that they can delay the USN. And really, that has always been the problem with a passive defense system like the mine - they may increase the cost of accomplishing a mission (albeit a mine sinking an enemy ship is really a chance occurance), and they may slow down the attackers, but they do not stop a determined navy from accomplishing its mission. That has been the case since Farragut said "damn the torpedoes" (which were actually mines in that era).

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