While they might sound old fashioned, sea mines are one of the most effective – and lethal – naval weapons of the modern era. Since the end of World War Two, these self-contained explosive devices have sunk more ships than all other threats combined, making them a formidable threat.
“Sea mines are quiet and deadly killers,” explains Carl-Marcus Remén, Sales Director at Saab’s Underwater Systems business unit. “They’re also a very effective way to shape the battlefield because they can cut off important sea lanes and communications and limit the movement your opponent.”
With sea mines capable of being laid in sea lanes and harbours across the planet, navies need strategies in place to reduce the risk to vessels and restore the tactical advantage. The field of mine countermeasures (MCM) addresses the challenge presented by mines and offers strategic, protocol and hardware solutions.
When a mine threat is identified, MCM activity can be performed in a range of different ways from the surface, air and underwater and using several different dedicated assets. Mine hunting vessels equipped with dedicated sonar systems can be used to detect and locate mines and, if needed, deploy mine sweeping systems to trigger them. Some navies use airborne countermeasures, including helicopters equipped with mine detection equipment and mine sweeping gear. Underwater measures, meanwhile, include the use of autonomous and remotely operated vehicles that can search for and dispose of mines, as well as specialised mine clearance divers.
Different mines, different MCM strategies
Mine countermeasures also include protocols and specific tactics for approaching areas with a potential or confirmed mine threat, giving consideration to materials used in construction of vessels to, for example, deter magnetic mines, and modifying the signatures of vessels.
Carl-Marcus Remén explains the job of clearing is extremely challenging and made all the more so by the wide variety of different types of sea mines in use and the combination with different types of underwater environments. These mines range from sophisticated modern mines whose sensors are triggered by signatures such as sound, magnetism, pressure and electrical fields, right through to improvised explosive devices, which are becoming increasingly common. “Some mines are very sophisticated with capabilities such as stealth design that makes them very hard to detect, some drift about, and others are moored,” says Remén. “What this means is that there is no silver bullet to handle every type of mine that can be encountered. You need to have a toolbox of different solutions.”
To provide defence forces with a multi-platform approach to the threat of mines, Saab offers a range of MCM products from ships through to autonomous and remotely operated vehicles.
Saab’s offering includes Sea Wasp, a waterborne security platform specially designed to deal with the modern threat of waterborne IEDs in harbour areas. The Double Eagle Mark II/III remotely operated vehicle for mine hunting and disposal, meanwhile, has a worldwide user group.
Saab’s AUV62-MR system for mine reconnaissance is a fully autonomous and modular AUV for rapid, long-term MCM search operations. Meanwhile the MUMNS system consists of three sub systems – a vehicle, a mine disposal magazine and a mine disposal system – making it suitable and adaptable for addressing different types of mines.
To reduce the effectiveness of magnetic mines, Saab Kockums produces MCMV 47, a vessel made from composite/glass fibre reinforced plastic (GRP) sandwich material. The vessel can be used for mine hunting and mechanical minesweeping, and can operate the remotely controlled, autonomous Self-propelled Acoustic-Magnetic (SAM) minesweeping system.