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Keeping Sailors Out of the Minefield

George Galdorisi
RUSI Defence Systems, 19 December 2019
Maritime Forces
Naval mines constitute a constant threat to global shipping, and due to proliferation, cost-effectiveness and increasing technical sophistication are likely to play a significant role in many future conflicts. Unmanned mine-countermeasure solutions derived from commercially available technologies could be rapidly developed to provide the US Navy and others with a better response

14 November 2019 saw the conclusion of a joint Historical Ordnance Disposal operation exercise organised by NATO's 1st Standing Anti-Mine Squad and the Baltic Minesweeper Squadron during which more than 50 mines were cleared. These mines, some of which were German WWII-era mines weighing almost 1000 kilograms each, should give pause to anyone inclined to discount the challenge that mines present to naval forces today.

Few military professionals would disagree with the statement that mines, often called ‘weapons that wait’, represent a vexing challenge. Naval mines are perhaps the most lethal form of these weapons, as they are hard to find, difficult to neutralise, and can present a deadly hazard to any vessel, even those ships specifically designed to hunt them. In terms of availability, variety, cost-effectiveness, ease of deployment and potential impact on naval operations, mines are some of the most attractive weapons available to any adversary. The threat of mines alone can stop any naval operation dead in its tracks.

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