Mine Neutralization

The Future of Mine



This article is broadly based upon information developed by the Coastal Systems Station in support of the the FY96 MIW Campaign Plan. This support was instrumental in the formulation of the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Concept of Operations, the Mine Countermeasures Functional Architecture, and the visualization of the phases of the MIW Campaign Plan. A key tenant of all of these efforts was the recognized need to embed an organic MCM capability into the deployable force structure of the U. S. Navy. The objective of this article is to present a view of the envisioned evolution of mine countermeasures as the Navy moves toward a more organic capability. The exact nature, scope, and extent of the organic capability will become more clearly defined as the Navy gains experience with the entire concept in the coming years. This article has been produced for informational purposes. It should not be interpreted as the official view of the U. S. Navy or of the Coastal Systems Station. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author.




Implementation of the national military strategy hinges upon the Navy's ability to execute maneuver warfare in the forward-deployed, littoral environment. In order to successfully accomplish this war-fighting evolution, mitigation of the mine threat becomes an essential element. The key to dealing effectively with the mine threat is to bring mine warfare -- particularly mine countermeasures -- into the mainstream of the Navy and Marine Corps operations in the littorals. This goal can only be accomplished by fully integrating mine warfare into Fleet training, exercises, and deployments; and, by elevating mine warfare planners and operators to a status of equal partners on operational staffs with the other major warfare areas. Core to this transition is the development and embedding of an organic MCM capability into the deployable force structure of the U. S. Navy. This move to an embedded organic MCM capability will be accomplished over a period of years.

Beginning with a baseline description of MCM capabilities in the Pre-Desert Storm era, this article provides a brief descriptive glimpse of a possible future evolution of mine countermeasures in the Near-Term, Mid-Term and Far-Term phases.

The characterization of the three developmental phases is followed by a final section which attempts to qualitatively indicate the nature of the MCM functions to be performed by the surface combatants, submarines, and the dedicated MCM forces of the U. S. Navy. Significant changes are required in the manner in which the Navy approaches the mine countermeasures problem. Over the next decade, mine countermeasures will evolve toward a capability which is an integral war-fighting component of naval surface forces. Achievement of this evolution will depend upon the Navy's ability to sustain the MCM thrust, and upon the war fighter's acceptance of mine warfare as a major warfare area on the par with the other warfare areas. (top of document)


Pre-Desert Storm

In the time period before Desert Storm, U. S. mine warfare forces -- while competent -- were faced with problems ranging from dated equipment, poor command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (what we now call C4I), poor knowledge of the composition, form and clutter-levels of the ocean floor, and, most importantly, a mind-set throughout the Navy that mines were "somebody else's problem". This has been characterized as a "Call 911" viewpoint. Mine warfare problems were not routinely integrated into standard naval exercises, U. S. naval forces were largely unfamiliar with the tactics and doctrine of mine warfare, and there was a generally low-level of awareness of mine warfare among surface and undersea warfare units. Furthermore, a working knowledge of those MCM related things needed to enable the accomplishment of Expeditionary Mine Warfare -- not just break out of our own ports -- was very low. There was a lack of intelligence and environmental information pertaining to the nature of the water column and bottom in the forward operating areas. The poor knowledge base of survey and surveillance data amounted to a "fog" or curtain hiding adversary intentions, capabilities, and actions. The environmental information essential for mine warfare operations was not widely available. The overall result was that U. S. forward-deployed forces were hampered by structural impediments (poor advance information of an area) as well as by institutional impediments (mine warfare just wasn't considered to be very important). Actions and events during Desert Storm dramatically illuminated these shortcomings. (top of document)


Mine Countermeasures in the Future

The major changes in the world environment during the last few years have significantly altered the roles of the U. S. Navy as an instrument of National policy. For the foreseeable future, the National interest requires that the U. S. Navy be capable of directly impacting events ashore. Accomplishment of this in turn requires forward deployed naval forces tailored to operate in the littoral environment for the purpose of achieving expeditionary power projection. Within this context, the Navy must be structured to establish operational sea control, fight its way into the littorals, and establish battlespace dominance in the littoral environment. This littoral warfare focus has significant implications for the manner in which the Navy approaches the mine countermeasures problem. Sea and land mines are perhaps the single most attractive weapon available to third world nations for the purpose of preventing U. S. naval forces from accomplishing their objectives in the littoral environment. To deal with this threat in the future, the Navy has been forced to formulate a new operational concept for mine countermeasures. A central feature of this revised concept of operations is the integration of mine countermeasures with the main war-fighting capabilities of the Navy. The recently promulgated Mine Countermeasures Concept of Operations is a synergistic mix of four focused operations that build upon each other to provide naval forces the capability to counter the mine threat. The four mine countermeasures operations which compose this concept of operations are:

Briefly, this top-level Concept of Operations for Mine Countermeasures can be described as follows:

Mine countermeasures operations begin during peacetime with actions to baseline relevant environmental data and intelligence information on the mining capabilities of potential adversaries. As tensions increase, focused surveillance operations provide updates to data bases developed during peacetime. As tensions escalate further, naval forces utilize organic mine countermeasure capabilities to accurately assess the risks associated with operating in mined waters -- or hopefully, avoid mined waters altogether -- during the initial efforts to shape the battlespace. Organic mine countermeasures operations will also serve to focus the efforts of arriving dedicated mine countermeasure forces that may be required to clear enemy mines to further shape the battlespace and support the projection of power from the sea. The dedicated mine countermeasure forces may be required to effect the enlargement of the overall naval operational area as necessary to permit follow-on echelon operations. At some point in time, the mine countermeasures forces may transition to administrative type operations.

Based upon this Concept of Operations, the MIW Campaign Plan formulated an approach which concentrated on three time frames: Near-Term, Mid-Term, and Far-Term. Collectively, these three time frames serve to articulate the evolution of the Navy's future mine countermeasures capability. (top of document)

Near-Term Timeframe

The near-term era encompasses fiscal years 1996 and 1997. At the end of this near-term interval, U. S. MCM forces will have improved C4I equipment's, particularly the EOD and AMCM arms, and an effort will have begun to fill high-fidelity data bases at the Naval Oceanographic Office with MCM-specific types of digital environmental information. Additionally, Fleet assets will have, for the first time, organic mine reconnaissance capabilities with the advent of the Remote Minehunting Operational Prototype (RMOP) system and the airborne Magic Lantern Deployment Contingency (MLDC) laser mine detection capability. An upgrade to the MK 105 airborne sweep will provide a substantially increased sweep efficiency and capability against a wider spectrum of the mine threat. The very shallow water (VSW) MCM units -- consisting of a mix of Special Warfare swim teams, EOD dive teams, and specially equipped USMC force RECON swim units -- will be fully operational. The Navy will also have its first MCM command ship, the USS INCHON (MCS-1). Improvements in the survey and surveillance databases, coupled with the new organic MCM capability will permit on-scene platforms to ascertain for themselves the mine danger potential within sea lines of communication (SLOCs) and coastal littoral areas in advance of the arrival of dedicated MCM assets. Further, with the establishment of the Mine Readiness and Effectiveness Measurement (MIREM) Program, the Navy will begin to exercise mine warfare skills in standard Fleet exercises worldwide. The collective effect of all of these thrusts will be to initiate the "sea change" in naval thinking to the view that mines are "everybody's problem".

Mid-Term Timeframe

The expansion of the capability initiated in the near-term will continue during the POM years (those out-years encompassing the Department of Defense planned expenditure of resources) which in this case takes us through FY2003. POM investments in mine warfare stress the continuance of improvements in MCM readiness and sustainability, and the continued support of the near-term initiatives. The planned improvements to be complete at the end of this POM cycle are illustrated above. C4I will have improved markedly. The working knowledge of the environment-- from both surveys and in-situ measurements -- will allow forward deployed forces to use the environment to advantage and to deny its use by adversaries. New undersea reconnaissance vehicles launched from submarines can potentially contribute to an overall improvement in reconnaissance of operational areas. In addition, the use of sensors deployed on national assets will result in an improvement in the reconnaissance to support mine countermeasures operations. With the introduction of the Shallow Water Assault Breaching System (SABRE) and the Distributed Explosive Technology (DET) the ability to rapidly breach shore defensive minefields will be emerging. The Integrated Combat Weapons System (ICWS) will be emerging as a fully integrated combat system on the dedicated MCM surface platforms. The AN/AQS-20 sonar mine detecting set will provide the AMCM forces with a substantially improved minehunting capability. Furthermore -- and perhaps most significantly -- mine warfare will be recognized as an integrated part of naval forces as the Fleet and Marine Corps routinely exercise mine warfare skills in regular exercises under the auspices of the MIREM program.

Far Term Timeframe

The future vision of mine countermeasures is illustrated here. The objective is to allow unimpeded freedom of movement of U.S. naval forces to project power ashore at sites of our choosing by -- if necessary -- rapidly clearing mines "in stride". This is the capability the Navy must absolutely achieve since adversaries need not sink our ships with mines to win, they only have to restrict our ability to move freely. Only by completing the development of organic MCM systems -- coupled with full integration of mine warfare into the Navy's war-fighting structure -- can U. S. forces rapidly and effectively achieve surveillance, reconnaissance and clearance of the mine threat. Achievement of this goal is also contingent upon exercising these capabilities in a mine-conscious Fleet exercise program. As depicted, U. S. forces in the future will have sufficient information from environmental and intelligence sources to allow rapid assessments of sensor and weapon performance -- individual platforms and expeditionary force packages will know where to go and what to expect. In this far-term time frame, mine warfare C4I will be seamlessly interwoven with Fleet C4I because mine warfare will be a pivotal central component of the naval force structure. Continued improvements in remote surveillance and reconnaissance platforms such as UAVs, UUVs, remotely-operated surface craft, and advanced sensors aboard airborne or space platforms will produce a high-fidelity, high-resolution description of the battlespace -- thus allowing efficient employment of platforms and force packages. The Remote Minehunting System (V)4, equipped with advanced sensors, will be an integral part of the Fleet's organic MCM capability. The Advanced Lightweight Influence Sweep System (ALISS) will provide an organic, remote minesweeping capability. The Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNSYS) and Rapid Mine Countermeasures System (RAMICS) will provide an in-stride organic neutralization capability to the airborne MCM forces. The explosive breaching system emerging from the Explosive Neutralization Advanced Technology Demonstration (ENATD) will provide the in-stride capability for effectively coping with surf zone and beach mine fields and obstacles. Mine warfare will no longer be the purview of only a small number of dedicated MCM professionals -- all members of the naval force structure will possess an awareness and knowledge of mine warfare. This is an achievable vision toward which the U. S. Navy must evolve.



It is clear that the key to dealing effectively with the mine threat is to bring mine countermeasures into the mainstream of the Navy and Marine Corps operations in the littorals. A key tenant associated with the mainstreaming of MCM is the recognition of a need to embed some level of organic MCM capability into the deployable force structure of the U. S. Navy. An organic mine countermeasures capability will consist not only of a suite of on-board and off-board sensors, but the full spectrum of operational infrastructure necessary to plan and evaluate MCM operations, and to implement tactical decisions to reduce the degree of risk associated with operations in potentially mined waters. The ultimate goal of organic MCM operations undertaken by surface combatants and submarines is to enable these forces to conduct war-fighting missions without being exposed to unacceptable levels of risk from the mine threat. It is not the purpose of organic operations to use surface combatants, nuclear submarines, or amphibious ships to conduct the full-spectrum of MCM operations. The objective is to support and enable all naval forces to concentrate on their primary mission and to use the organic capability to acquire a realistic assessment of the risks posed by the mine threat. The exact nature, scope, and extent of this organic capability will become more clearly defined as the Navy gains experience with the entire concept in the coming years. The scope of the organic capability will revolve around the set of MCM functions which are found to be necessary to support the various platform missions. A qualitative depiction of the types and levels of MCM functions to be performed by the various classes of naval platforms can be constructed as illustrated in Figure 1(figure not provided). The MCM functions listed are consistent with those derived from the Top-Level MCM Functional Architecture. The primary exception pertains to the introduction of the ship-hardening function which is intended to relate to the platform's ability to withstand the shock associated with the nearby detonation of a threat warhead. The MCM function-capability chart consists of a polar plot which shows increasing levels of MCM capability. The MCM functions are depicted as pie-shaped segments. The inner circle of the plot depicts some minimal level of MCM capability. The outer circle depicts the full capability level. The capability will vary across the functions for a given platform type. While not quantitative, this scheme can be used to indicate the relative levels of capability expected to be required on each platform class. A brief definition of the functions is presented in Appendix A. (top of document)

Evolution of Organic Mine Countermeasures

A qualitative assessment illustrating the current and future MCM capability of surface combatants, submarines, and dedicated MCM platforms is presented in Figure 2 (figure not provided). The purpose of this qualitative assessment is to encourage a dialog relative to the nature of the requirements for organic MCM capabilities on the various classes of platforms.

In a qualitative sense, the level of capability illustrated for surface combatants and submarines is consistent with the concept that it should not be the Navy's intent to convert these platforms into mine countermeasure ships. To do so would not be a cost-effective approach to the mine countermeasures problem. The primary MCM functions which are not envisioned as being incorporated to the full-capability level on surface combatants and submarines pertain to the specific mine countermeasure functions of mine hunting, mine sweeping, and neutralization. With the exception of the mine sweeping function, the surface combatants and submarines should logically possess some level of capability in each of the mine countermeasures functions. It is important to realize that the different platforms will contribute in different ways to functions such as reconnaissance and environmental monitoring, depending upon their inherent capabilities and sensor systems. It is anticipated that surface combatants and submarines will require some level of neutralization capability to enhance their own survivability within certain mission scenarios. The most important thought to keep in mind when considering the question of organic mine countermeasures is that the Navy will need the complete range of capabilities illustrated, and that the dedicated MCM forces should be considered to be an integral component of the Navy's organic mine countermeasures capability.

The principle benefit to be derived from the overall concept of organic mine countermeasures is to ensure that mine warfare will no longer be the purview of only a small number of dedicated professionals -- rather all components of the naval force structure will possess an awareness and an operational knowledge of mine warfare. (top of document)



This article presents one view of the possible future evolution of mine countermeasures. This future is broadly based upon the overall approach which emerged from the FY96 MIW Campaign Plan effort.

The concept of organic mine countermeasures is a fundamental element of the future evolution of this warfare area. In general, there has been a lack of awareness of the mine countermeasures problem across the complete operational structure of the Navy. The emergence of organic mine countermeasures systems hopefully will be a first step toward providing the forward deployed combatant forces with an on-site mine countermeasures capability. As experience is gained with these organic systems, mine countermeasures can potentially be brought into the mainstream of the Navy's war-fighting capabilities. This goal can only be accomplished, however, by fully integrating mine warfare into Fleet training, exercises, and deployments; and by elevating mine warfare planners to a status of equal partners on operational staffs. The challenge to the Navy is to operationally integrate MCM into the Navy force structure such that it becomes a core war-fighting competency. (top of document)



ALMD: Airborne Laser Mine Detection System
AMCM: Airborne Mine Countermeasures
AMNSYS: Airborne Mine Neutralization System
C2I: Command, Control and Information
C4I: Command and Control, Communications, Computer and Intelligence
CLZ: Craft Landing Zone
DET: Distributed Explosive Technology
ENATD: Enhanced Neutralization Advanced Technology Demonstration
ENVRON MON: Environmental Monitoring
EOD: Explosive Ordnance Disposal
HUNT: Minehunting
LMRS: Long-Term Mine Reconnaissance System
M&S: Modeling and Simulation
MCM: Mine Countermeasures
MCOG: Mine Warfare Coordinating Group
MCS: Mine Countermeasures Support Ship (USS INCHON)
MIREM: Mine Warfare Readiness and Effectiveness Measurements
MIW: Mine Warfare
MLDC: Magic Lantern Deployment Contingency
MSO: Mine Sweeper, Ocean Going
NEUT: Neutralization
NMRS: Near-Term Mine Reconnaissance System
NSWC: Naval Surface Warfare Center
POM: Program Objectives Memorandum
RAMICS: Rapid Airborne Mine Countermeasures System
RECON: Reconnaissance
RMOP: Remote Minehunting Operational Prototype
RMS: Remote Minehunting System
SABRE: Shallow Water Assault Breaching System
SIG MOD: Signature Modification
SLOC: Sea Lanes of Communication
SSN: Attack Submarine (Nuclear)
SWEEP: Minesweeping
SZ: Surf Zone
UAV: Unmanned Airborne Vehicle
UUV: Unmanned Undersea Vehicle
VSW: Very Shallow Water

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Appendix A: Description of Functions

Signature Modification: Modification of ship and submarine acoustic and magnetic signatures to reduce the susceptibility of actuation of mine sensors.
C4I: Connectivity between Fleet and command elements.
Neutralization: Remove or render inoperable unavoidable mines.
Minesweeping: Induce mines to actuate or separate from moorings.
Minesweeping Object Avoidance: Use of organic sensors to detect and avoid mine-like objects.
Reconnaissance: Use of sensors to determine the presence of mines. Identification is a central element of reconnaissance.
Environmental Monitoring: In-situ measurement or monitoring of the environmental parameters.
Hardening: Reducing the vulnerability of platforms to damage due to the underwater detonation of a threat weapon warhead.

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