Darts and Laurels

June 1, 2013  

Serious mine games

To the Navy for continuing its large-scale international mine countermeasures exercises in the Persian Gulf.

Nearly 40 allied and friendly navies joined U.S. warships in May for the International Mine Countermeasure Exercise, a follow-on to a similar, slightly smaller exercise last year. Of particular note, the 35-ship flotilla will operate a total of 18 unmanned sensor and countermine vehicles. The future of undersea warfare belongs to such unmanned craft in at least as great a proportion as air warfare does to UAVs.

Certainly, the exercise was meant as a signal to Iran, which periodically threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz with mines and missiles, and so it serves a strategic purpose as well as meeting training requirements. And certainly more practice is needed for this dangerous and delicate work. After last year’s exercise, a former Navy mine-warfare director told PBS that organizers dropped 29 simulated mines overboard and that the assembled countermine forces probably found about half of them.

In a future naval war, cheap mines could easily become the improvised explosive ordinance of the sea. The more practice the Navy can get, the better.