Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Iran and Sea Mines

More thoughts on mine warfare: Global Security says:
Mine warfare is an established, but often downplayed, part of naval operations.{75} Mines are relatively cheap, easy to produce, and simple to deploy. They are capable of creating a threat out of all proportion to the effort required to deploy them. The mere threat of mines is often enough to cause a significant disruption to naval operations or shipping. During the Persian Gulf War, the 1200-1500 mines Iraq laid off Kuwait were largely responsible for the decision not to conduct an amphibious landing during the war.

Mines are an attractive option for many small powers for the following reasons. Maritime powers are highly vulnerable both in peace and war due to their dependence on the sea. Mining operations are far cheaper than counter mining operations, and they are far cheaper than other types of naval weaponry which inflict similar types of damage. Many small naval powers will attempt to use mines in order to deny their coastal areas to forces arrayed against them. Others will use mines offensively to deny port facilities or egress points to hostile fleets. Given the ease of deployment (mines can be deployed from submarines or from civilian vessels) and the growing sophistication of them, mines will remain effective weapons.

Global Security reports on Iran's Navy:
Iran's navy has 20,000 men, but they are young and inexperienced, and most of them are riflemen and marines based on Persian Gulf islands. And at higher levels, there is fierce rivalry between the IRGC and regular navies for scarce resources. Due to these shortcomings, Iran's three Kilo-class submarines would be vulnerable, and they are limited to laying mines in undefended waters. Mines, however, are one area in which Iran has made advances. It can produce non-magnetic, free-floating, and remote-controlled mines. It may have taken delivery of pressure, acoustic, and magnetic mines from Russia. Also, Iran is negotiating with China for rocket-propelled rising mines.

According to Global Defence 1997
The EM-52 rising mines are part of a 3,000-weapon stockpile of (Iranian) anti-ship mines. This purchase is significant because, unlike most other mines, the EM-52 is operational in deep water such as the Persian Gulf. When the hull of a ship passes over the device the mine is triggered and a rocket is fired at the hull. Placed in choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz, this device could be devastating. (photo from MCDOA).

Another interesting article on the modern use of mines is "Mine Warfare and Globalization: Low-Tech Warfare in a High-Tech World" by Thomas R. Bernitt and Sam J. Tangredi found here. Good quote:
Mines have been used extensively since the Korean War by a growing number of nations. Known mining incidents have occurred in:
-Long Tau Channel in 1965 (North Vietnam)
-Suez Canal and the Straits of Aqaba in 1967 (Egypt)
-Straits of Gubal and Chittagona, Bangladesh, in 1971 (India)
-Haiphong Harbor in 1972 (United States)
-Tripoli, Benghazi, and Bomba in 1973 (Egypt and Libya)
-Khowr-E-Musa, Iraq, in 1982 (Iran)
-Corinta, Nicaragua, in 1983–1984 (Nicaraguan contras with U.S. support)12
-Approaches to the Suez Canal in the Red Sea in 1984 (suspected to have been Libya).
Today, there is obviously no longer a monopoly by the wealthy industrialized nations on mine warfare since mines have become increasingly available to the Third World. The technology of today’s mines makes them ideally suited to low-intensity conflicts when the strategic objective becomes a cut-off of sea transported supplies rather than naval confrontation. Until the Persian Gulf War, however, deploying mines remained only within the purview of the major nations. That all changed in 1990.

A simple World War I design (patterned after the Imperial Russian MKB moored mine), the LUGM 140, an indigenous mine manufactured by Iraq, was deployed in late 1990 as a floating mine throughout the Arabian Gulf. Although specifically in violation of the 1907 Hague Treaty, which prohibited such “floaters,” the mines complicated the maneuver capabilities of the naval armada positioned in the Gulf prior to and during the outbreak of hostilities. Additionally, and probably more importantly, the mines helped to stall the world’s greatest Navy in its tracks in February 1991 off the shore of Kuwait because of the inability of the U.S. Navy, and anyone else for that matter, to sweep the sea lanes effectively prior to an amphibious invasion. The LUGM presence, as well as the presence of the more sophisticated Swedish manufactured Mantas (a magnetically activated mine that caused the damage to USS Tripoli and USS Princeton during the Gulf War), was a prime consideration of war planners designing options for landing marines ashore near Kuwait City. During that war, with no credible countermine capability, the U.S. Navy actually experimented, midwar, with individual swimmers armed with snorkels and facemasks merely to try to create an ad hoc minimalist capability that might ascertain the presence or nonpresence of mines in the assault lanes. Most of this effort was expended for a mine essentially based on a pre-World War I design.

And to complete the rosy scenario,here's a Battle for the Strait of Hormuz projection from 1997:
Operations might be conducted along the following lines:
The battle fleet is led by a screen of attack submarines, whose mission is twofold: to conduct ASW against enemy submarine forces, and to employ underwater unmanned vehicles to begin clearing the anti-ship minefields blocking chokepoints in the littoral...

Mine sweeping attack subs?

Oh, my.

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