Mine Neutralization

The Mine Countermeasures

Concept of Operations

For the 21st Century


With the shift in focus from the open ocean strategies of the Cold War to the current strategic concept of joint expeditionary operations in the world's littorals, the potential for the naval mine to frustrate U. S. Navy plans has greatly expanded. The U.S. Navy must have effective mine countermeasures forces to ensure the execution of operations in the post-Cold War era.

The strategic concept and direction of the Naval Service -- the Navy and Marine Corps -- outlined in the 1992 paper "... From the Sea" and reaffirmed in its 1994 companion document "Forward ... From the Sea" provide compelling requirements for effective and modern mine warfare forces. The U.S. Navy must be prepared to operate in distant waters in the early stages of regional hostilities to enable the flow of land-based air and ground forces into the theater of operations, as well as to protect vital follow-on sealift required for delivery of heavy equipment and sustainment of major forces.

For the foreseeable future, we must anticipate increases in both the lethality of mines and the number of mines available for use by practically any adversary. Modern mine countermeasures skills and systems are thus pivotal if U.S. naval forces are to maintain a credible forward presence and, if required, to ensure battlespace dominance and to conduct power-projection operations. The development of these skills and systems must be guided by a well conceived concept of operations.

This article describes a concept of operations formulated by The Mine Warfare Division (N852) of the Chief of Naval Operations. This concept of operations will be used to conduct and guide the development of doctrine, operations, tactics, and systems needed to defeat this most ubiquitous of naval threats.



The purpose of this article is to describe a viable concept of operations for mine countermeasures (MCM) in support of Joint operations. The rapid increase in the proliferation of sea mines since the Persian Gulf war highlights the need for such a concept of operations. We must ensure timely and effective response to potential mine threats to enable Joint operations.

An essential supporting warfare capability that is integral to the ability of naval forces to effectively shape and dominate the battlespace is mine countermeasures. Mine countermeasures includes not only clearing mines, but also identifying where they are not. Additionally, mines can be eliminated at the source by eliminating mine stockpiles, obstructing mine movement to mine laying platforms, or elimination of the laying platforms themselves. Mines are inexpensive weapons which are highly effective in the littoral environment. Mines are the single most-attractive weapon available to third world nations for the purpose of preventing U. S. naval forces from shaping the battlespace, attaining battlespace dominance, and projecting power from the sea.

To deal with this likely threat, naval forces require a viable concept of operations for mine countermeasures. Such a concept of operations must be prudently broad in scope to ensure our technical and operational capabilities across the spectrum of potential operations, from non-combat operations other than war to full-scale conflict. Mine countermeasure operations must begin during peacetime with actions to baseline relevant environmental data and intelligence information on mining capabilities. As tensions increase, focused surveillance operations provide updates to databases developed during peacetime. As tensions escalate further, naval forces utilizing organic mine countermeasure capabilities can avoid operating in mined waters during their initial efforts to shape the battlespace. Organic MCM operations also focus the efforts of arriving dedicated mine countermeasure forces that may be required to clear enemy mines to further shape the battlespace and project power from the sea. (top of document)

Role of Mine Countermeasures

Forward deployed naval forces will be the primary U. S. force shaping the battlespace within the theater of operations. In order to maximize our capability to shape the battlespace, naval forces must be capable of unencumbered maneuver. As our forces build-up in theater, we evolve to battlespace dominance. This build-up of forces is attained only if we can safely sail our forces through sea lanes and to ports of debarkation. Depending on the desired mission objective and level of conflict, battlespace dominance may lead to power projection if required.

To be successful, naval forces must be able to deal with the multitude of threats, including the potential mine threat in each phase. The types of Joint operations that may be affected by mines include: Operations Other than War, Non-combatant Evacuation Operations, Anti-submarine Warfare, Theater Ballistic Missile Defense, Theater Air Defense, Strike, Anti-surface Warfare, and Amphibious Warfare. Naval forces conducting operational maneuver from the sea are the enabling force for the above operations.

The Mine Countermeasures Concept of Operations described herein provides a road map for countering the potential mine threat facing naval forces and ensures their ability to maneuver from the sea. (top of document)


Mine Countermeasures Concept of Operations

The Mine Countermeasures Concept of Operations is a synergistic mix of mine countermeasure focused operations that build upon each other to provide naval forces the capability to counter the mine threat. The four general types of mine countermeasures operations are:

These four mine countermeasure operations build upon each other in a pyramid like manner as illustrated in Figure 1 (Figure not provided). Each type of mine countermeasure operation is enabled by products developed by the mine countermeasure operation preceding it. As tensions increase, mine countermeasure operations will focus a greater level of effort on an increasingly smaller geographic area.

Depending on the threat, we may achieve a particular mission objective at any level of the pyramid. The essential features of each level of mine countermeasure operations are described in the linked paragraphs. (top of document)


Mapping, Survey and Intelligence Operations

The next geographic location where naval forces will be required to conduct operations is uncertain. It is certain that naval forces may encounter mines in the littorals. This is a complex physical and operational environment. It is also certain that naval forces face a wide variety of sophisticated and technically complex threat mines. A sustained, peacetime, mine countermeasures oriented, bottom-mapping and environmental survey effort combined with an aggressive, all-source mine threat intelligence collection effort is required to provide the foundation databases required to support mine countermeasure operations.

Mine countermeasure oriented bottom-mapping and environmental databases will be used to establish extent of mineable waters, potential for mine burial, as well as the acoustic and magnetic propagation characteristics of the particular area.

Mine threat intelligence databases will provide data specific mine types as well as location of mine stockpiles, mine-laying platforms, estimated mine-laying tactics, and mine-laying proficiency of a potential enemy [See Table 1].

Table 1: Mapping, Survey, and Intelligence Operations
Attributes Assets Products
  • Conducted Far In Advance of Possible Conflict
  • Synergistic Use of All Assets
  • Available to All Components of Joint Force Through C4I
  • Worldwide Focus
  • Full Time Focused Effort
  • Leverage Other Warfare Areas


  • National Sensors
  • Intel Techniques and Platforms
  • Oceanographic Survey
  • Allies
  • Forward Deployed Forces of Opportunity
  • C4I
  • Naval Technical and R&D Centers
  • MCM Planning Folders
  • Foreign Mine Exploitation
  • Threat Assessment
  • Threat Inventories, Laying and Production Capabilities
  • Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures
  • Fused Data
  • All Encompassing Environmental Databases


Surveillance Operations

Building upon the products developed from mapping, survey and intelligence operations, mine countermeasure oriented surveillance operations must be initiated at the first sign of increasing tensions in a geographic region of interest. Surveillance assets and intelligence sources are employed to obtain an updated and increasingly detailed assessment of mine production and stockpile locations, mine-laying platform locations, and readiness of a potential adversary mining force. Bottom mapping surveys and environmental data must be verified and updated to support initial planning of mine countermeasure operations to support possible Joint force mission objectives. National sensors, forward-deployed U. S. Joint forces, Allied forces in the area of interest, and Special Operations forces all contribute to mine countermeasure surveillance operations [See Table 2].

Table 2: Surveillance Operations
Attributes Assets Products
  • Intensify as Tensions Increase
  • Focus on Specific Region or Country of Interest
  • Build on Historic Database


  • National Sensors
  • Joint Forces
    • Airborne
    • Surface
    • Subsurface
    • Ground
  • SOF
  • C4I
  • Allied and Coalition Forces
  • Threat Mine Stockpiles
  • Adversary Minelaying Activities
  • Target I.D. For Strike
  • Ship Movements and Routes
  • Fused Data
  • Potential Minefield Locations


Organic Mine Countermeasures Operations

The goal of organic mine countermeasure operations is to enable naval forces to conduct their war-fighting missions without being exposed to the risks of operations in mined waters. It is not our desire to use combatants, SSN's or amphibious ships to conduct the full range and scope of all mine countermeasure operations.

Utilizing the mapping, survey and intelligence databases which have been updated and detailed through mine countermeasure surveillance operations, naval forces can conduct organic mine countermeasure operations. Naval forces can begin to shape the battlespace by detecting and avoiding operations in mined waters. Information provided by organic mine countermeasure operations will also be used to plan and focus the efforts of arriving dedicated mine countermeasure forces should they be required to conduct mine clearance operations to further shape the battle space.

Bottom survey data, environmental data and intelligence gathered through organic mine countermeasure operations will also be used to further update and refine mine countermeasure databases [See Table 3].

Table 3: Organic Mine Countermeasures Operations
Attributes Assets Products
  • Mine Recon Capability for Individual and Multiple Ship Forces
  • Support Joint Force Risk Assessment
  • Support and Enable Joint Forces to Concentrate on Primary Mission
  • Hostile Environment


  • Surface Combatants
  • Organic Aircraft
  • Subsurface Platforms and Combatants
  • Embarked EOD DETS
  • NSW
  • C4I
  • Allied and Coalition Forces
  • Quieting and Degaussing
  • Assess Threat
  • Risk Reduction to Transiting Forces
  • Focus Dedicated MCM Force Effort
  • Updated Databases
  • Mine Danger Areas Safe Routing
  • Transition to Dedicated MCM Operations


Dedicated Mine Countermeasure Operations

As tensions continue to increase, dedicated mine countermeasure operations may be required to further shape the battlespace. Dedicated mine countermeasure operations will capitalize upon and be focused by the results of mine countermeasure mapping, survey and intelligence operations, mine countermeasure surveillance operations, and organic mine countermeasure operations.

Dedicated mine countermeasure operations are conducted to clear enemy minefields, to further shape the battlespace, and to project power from the sea. Airborne, surface, and shallow water mine countermeasure forces, coupled with Explosive Ordnance Disposal divers and Naval Special Warfare forces, are used to conduct dedicated mine countermeasure operations.

When naval forces must operate in mined waters, dedicated mine countermeasure operations are used to reduce the threat of mines (and obstacles) to an acceptable level to permit operations through sea lines of communication and within amphibious and naval operating areas [See Table 4].

Table 4: Dedicated Mine Countermeasures Operations
Attributes Assets Products
  • Sustained, Focused MCM Operations
  • Sustained Mine Clearance Operations
  • Capitalize on Results of Mapping, Survey, Intel, Surveillance, and Organic MCM
  • Coordinated with Allied MCM Forces


  • Air MCM Forces
  • Surface MCM Forces
  • USMC Forces
  • EOD
  • NSW
  • C4I
  • Allied and Coalition Forces
  • Reduced Threat of Mines and Obstacles to Acceptable Level
    • SLOC
    • NOA
    • AOA
    • Beach/CLZ
    • Other
  • Enable Sustained Naval and Joint Operations
  • Updated Databases


Supporting Infrastructures

To be a viable operational concept, the Top-Level Mine Countermeasure Concept of Operations depends upon the availability of the supporting C4I and analysis programs.

An aggressive Fleet exercise program, supported by modeling, simulation and a threat-based intelligence collection program, is essential to determining requirements for system acquisition, direction of science and technology efforts and to providing data for mine countermeasure training, education and tactics development.

Naval forces require a functional C4I network to provide both command and control and database connectivity between each level of mine countermeasure operations. Connectivity with U. S. Joint forces and Allied forces is also a requirement.

This Mine Countermeasure Concept of Operations requires support, in some way, from all naval forces. Full implementation requires a naval force trained in mine countermeasures and a dedicated mine countermeasure force that is routinely included in Fleet exercises. Mine countermeasure operations must become an integral part of Naval force doctrine, education and training. (top of document)


This paper details a top-level Concept of Operations for Mine Countermeasures. This structure and approach will provide a mine countermeasures capability to support the overall war-fighting requirements of naval forces. This concept of operations provides a framework to support further detailed concepts of operations development for each time of mine countermeasure operation presented. (top of document)


AOA: Amphibious Operating Area
ASUW: Anti-surface Warfare
ASW: Anti-submarine Warfare
C4I: Command, Control, Communication and Information
CLZ: Craft Landing Zone
CONOPS: Concept of Operations
EOD Explosive Ordnance Disposal
GCCS: Global Command and Control System
INTEL: Intelligence
JMCIS: Joint Mission Control and Information System
MCM: Mine Countermeasures
MIREM: Mine Warfare Readiness/Effectiveness Measurements
NOA: Naval Operating Area
NSW: Naval Special Warfare
NTCSA: Navy Tactical Command System Afloat
OMFTS: Operational Maneuver From the Sea
SOF: Special Operating Forces
SSN: Attack Submarine
USMC: United States Marine Corps


"Concept of Operations For Mine Countermeasures in the 21st Century," Chief of Naval Operations (N852), 1 September 1995. (top of document)