Organic Offboard Mine Reconnaissance
Concept of Operations
21 April 1998
The overarching tenet of "operational maneuver from the sea" is to use mobility, flexibility, and modern technology to project strength against weakness. To this end, Naval and Amphibious operations will be conducted where the enemy's coastal defenses are weakest. Critical to the planning phase for these operations is the characterization of the battle field, specifically, determining the extent and nature of the enemy’s coastal defenses. These defenses, especially sea mines, can pose a significant threat to Naval and Amphibious forces and to their ability to achieve battlespace dominance.
To sustain its operations in the littorals, the Naval Expeditionary Force, which includes elements of both Carrier Battle Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups, and other Naval forces must possess an organic capability to assess and monitor the extent of the sea mine threat, including the location of and gaps around suspected minefields. Additionally, once operating in-theater, Naval forces must respond to the dynamic evolution of a regional contingency, whether it be motivated by conditions ashore or at sea. Thus, these Naval forces must be equipped with capabilities to assess quickly the sea mine threat in other potential operating areas. At times, the reconnaissance required must be obtained clandestinely to prevent enemy alertment and to maximize the success of Naval and Amphibious operations.
The focus for this concept of operations is on organic offboard mine reconnaissance. These operations fit into a larger set of set of organic mine countermeasures (MCM) operations that include the following five primary components:
Anti-mining surveillance. Aggressive, early observation of enemy mining activities and assets is key to littoral dominance. Various surveillance methods along with intelligence must provide indications and warning of adversary mining efforts. If rules of engagement permit, it is better to take proactive measures to prevent mining, using this surveillance as target data, than to react to mines after they are laid.
Offboard mine reconnaissance. Based on intelligence and surveillance indications, organic offboard mine reconnaissance efforts will be focused to support Naval and Amphibious operations. In the absence of dedicated MCM forces, accurate and timely mine reconnaissance, provided by offboard systems, will be essential for avoidance of mined areas or exploiting gaps within mined areas.
Ship Signature Reduction and Control. To minimize the ship’s vulnerability to mines, warships will be designed and maintained with various signature reduction and control techniques. Acoustic quieting, degaussing systems and magnetic silencing are some of the techniques included in ship signature reduction.
Organic Mine Clearance Systems. In some tactical situations, it may be necessary to conduct clearance operations to gain tactical use of potentially mined waters, but conventional MCM forces may not be available to conduct the operations. A limited organic mine clearance capability may meet this mission.
Onboard Detection Systems. All MCM operations provide only a probability or percent certainty that mines are no longer a threat. Onboard detection capabilities may provide the last level of defense against mine threats by detecting objects in the water, which are potentially mines.
The following definitions will be used throughout this document:
Organic. Capability that is carried in forward deployed forces to allow early MCM operations and in the Naval Expeditionary Force or other Naval forces to enable them to conduct MCM operations enroute.
Clandestine. An operation is considered clandestine if it is sponsored by a government agency in such a way as to assure concealment. A clandestine operation conceals the intent of the sponsor so as to prevent enemy exploitation.
Mine Reconnaissance. MCM operation that encompasses some or all of the following:
(1) Detection - Process of determining that an object is present.
(2) Classification - Process of determining if the object that has been detected is mine-like or nonmine-like.
(3) Identification - Process of determining if a mine-like object is actually a mine.
Exploratory Mine Reconnaissance. MCM operation with the objective of determining if mine-like objects are present. If mine-like objects are present, the second objective of exploratory mine reconnaissance is to determine safe routes or operating areas around the potential minefields. Exploratory mine reconnaissance encompasses the detection and classification processes of mine reconnaissance.
Sea mines have become an inexpensive means for less-developed countries to hinder Naval operations and to embarrass superior forces. Recent analysis of the World mine threat reveals that, since 1991, there has been a 40% increase in the number of countries that produce mines and a 50% increase in the number of countries that export mines. These countries include recent and potential adversaries. Of special concern are advanced technology mines that are becoming increasingly more difficult to counter and were recently encountered in the Persian Gulf.
Sea mines are produced in a wide range of explosive weights and may be fitted with a variety of actuation mechanisms (simple contact horns to sophisticated computer logic employing multiple sensors). In addition, sea mines can be deployed by airborne, surface, and subsurface platforms. Although the majority of mines are bottom influence and moored, mines may be located essentially anywhere in the water column (from the surface down to the sea floor) and may be buried in the bottom.
Environment and Tactical Situations
The natural environment and inherent limitations of current mine detection methods and technology preclude a single concept that can determine the presence of sea mines over the entire range of the threat. At present, the principal means for mine-like object detection uses acoustic technology (sonar). However, acoustic wave propagation becomes difficult to predict in proximity of the air-water interface (i.e., near the surface) and in the very shallow (40 to 10 feet) region, and penetration of the sea floor is limited; therefore, non-acoustic methods may also be required to determine the presence of mine-like objects.
Additionally, a multitude of tactical situations, each with a different mine reconnaissance requirement, precludes the use of a single mine reconnaissance system. These tactical situations include, but are not limited to:
- Early reconnaissance of navigation choke points;
- Early reconnaissance of Naval Operating Areas;
- Early reconnaissance of Amphibious Objective Areas; and
- Early reconnaissance of areas to support dynamic (changing) Naval and Marine Corps operations.
Each of the above can be modified with the requirements to be clandestine, to support single ship or multiple ship operations, to meet varying levels of confidence of the mine reconnaissance data (probability of mine detection, classification, and identification), and to meet varying demands for timeliness (hours versus days versus weeks).
Concept of Operations
Well in advance of the arrival of other Naval forces, forward deployed surface ships and submarines will provide an assessment of environmental and threat conditions. Starting with previously gathered surveillance and intelligence data, these forces will focus their organic offboard mine reconnaissance capabilities to determine the extent and size of the mine threat and to determine safe anticipated operating areas. To provide protected transit for Naval forces or individual ships, these assets will conduct mine reconnaissance to determine low risk transit lanes in navigation choke points. Additionally, organic mine reconnaissance systems will be used to locate operating areas that have a low risk for mine threats. For each of the above cases, clandestine mine reconnaissance systems will be used as required by the tactical situation.
In each situation, the commander will employ organic offboard mine reconnaissance assets to determine the location/density of mine-like objects to an acceptable level of confidence. The commander will either accept the risk or continue reconnaissance in order to increase the confidence level (i.e., reduce risk). If a suitable gap cannot be located, a decision will be made to either continue mine reconnaissance in other areas or commence mine clearance using conventional or organic MCM forces. As tactical mine data becomes available, the location of mine danger areas and low risk areas will be fused into a comprehensive tactical picture and communicated to other Naval forces.
As part of the advance forces, surface ships will employ offboard systems to meet the demand for mine reconnaissance of anticipated operating areas. Remotely operated, offboard systems, employing mine reconnaissance sensors, will be launched and operated from surface ships to conduct mine reconnaissance operations. Its sensor suite will be used against bottom and moored mines for mine reconnaissance in deep water (greater than 200 feet) to a portion of the very shallow water (40 to 10 feet) regions (see Figure 1). In some cases, the mine reconnaissance will be conducted by the offboard system to enable the ship to accomplish its singular mission. In other cases, the offboard systems will conduct mine reconnaissance to evaluate anticipated operating areas prior to the arrival of other Naval forces and/or the conduct of Amphibious operations (e.g. Amphibious assault). Mine reconnaissance data will either be stored on the offboard system for future analysis or communicated back to the host ship as timeliness dictates. In both cases, the system will be capable of over-the horizon operations. Although the offboard systems may expose masts and antennas, its low profile and/or extent of distribution in several different locations within the littoral region may provide adequate concealment of intentions.
To meet the floating and near-surface mine threats, electro-optic systems will be carried onboard the ship’s aircraft. These systems will be capable of reconnaissance of mines on the surface and to a limited depth below the surface (see Figure 1). The mine reconnaissance data gathered by these systems will either be stored for future analysis on the aircraft or communicated back to the host ship as timeliness dictates. The system will be capable of over-the-horizon operations. As the tactical situation permits, this mine reconnaissance data will permit the localization of enemy minefields in support of Amphibious operations.
When clandestine operations are critical, forward positioned submarines, operating offboard mine reconnaissance systems, will be used to provide timely, clandestine mine reconnaissance data. The sensor suite employed by these offboard systems will be used against bottom and moored mines for mine reconnaissance in deep water (greater than 200 feet) to a portion of the very shallow water (40 to 10 feet) regions (see Figure 1). In some cases, the mine reconnaissance will be conducted by the offboard system to enable the submarine to accomplish its singular mission. In other cases, the offboard systems will conduct clandestine mine reconnaissance to evaluate anticipated operating areas prior to the arrival of other Naval forces and/or the conduct of other operations (e.g. Amphibious assault). Mine reconnaissance data will either be stored on the offboard system for future analysis onboard the submarine or communicated back to the host submarine as timeliness dictates. In both cases, the offboard system will be capable of long range operations.
Additionally, sufficient small offboard systems will be employed by Special Warfare forces to meet the requirements in the very shallow water (40 to 10 feet) regions (see Figure 1). These offboard systems will assist in confirming low risk approaches in preparation for the Amphibious assault.
No one system is effective within the entire water volume, against the full scope of mine threats, and for all tactical situations. Several complementary organic offboard mine reconnaissance capabilities, using a variety of employment methods and sensors, will provide the necessary mine reconnaissance (see Figure 2). The combination of these capabilities, each with unique mine reconnaissance attributes, and joined by a common, over-the-horizon C4I system, is required to support early and sustained Naval and Marine Corps operations.