A certain part of authorities of US Navy have been clearly discussing to change the MCM concept for last two years. It seems there are many favorable statements for the reasons of possible concept at a glance. Can it be said that this new opinion is ill-thought-out perspective? May be not, but I suppose it certainly needs lengthy talks. As a matter of fact, US naval power is recently attracted notice and started discussing due to the destroyers’ collisions in the Pacific Ocean and interesting assessments among the own authorities about near future concepts. I primarily try to understand for which operation necessities they put forward.

They express their thesis as follows;

‘…The problem is both operational and cultural. Navy culture makes it all too easy for surface commanders to ignore mine warfare unless that is their vessel’s only mission. And hunting mines is a slow, laborious task that requires a ship to stay in one small area until it’s done…’ [1]

As far as I see; root of the problem is speed in tempo and time of naval operations. They determined candidates of warships which can operate MCM in three main groups.[2] First group is carrier-sized support ship called the Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), capable of carrying four huge MH-53 counter-mine helicopters and all their support staff and drones, small craft, and other equipment. Second one is high speed catamaran known as Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), capable of carrying a wide variety of equipment, as well as a helicopter pad. Third one is particularly interesting and takes inspiration from a determination known as ‘if it floats, it fights’. The possible platforms in third group are amphibious ships, destroyers, and even aircraft carriers, capable of carrying the MH-60S Seahawk, which can be fitted with a laser to detect mines and mini-torpedoes to destroy them. They think it’s physically possible to deploy unmanned boats (USVs) and mini-subs (UUVs) on the deck of a warship. It’s also stated that Avenger class minesweepers will be replaced by just eight MCM-equipped Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). It seems that third ones are more favorable for naval authorities. They are of the opinion that they found the question whether every ship can be a mine sweeper/hunter or not.

The mine warfare whom I know as a former commanding officer of a minesweeper necessitates patience and labor. Before sailing, you should study your homework regarding the possible using methods of clearing tactics for hours. It also needs team work and has different command structure. Your tactics can change whether you need defensive or offensive MCM operation based on the area where you are in. For instance, use of a LCS will be very luxury in defensive operation because some operations are executed near the bays or at entrance of harbours connected ally. Detection of mines intrinsically needs low speed due to sonar features. Environment conditions will not be suitable everytime even as you decide using the divers or mini subs.There are sometimes so invisible conditions that you can not see anything below 10 meters of surface. In addition; mission endurance of MH-60S Seahawk is approximately 3.00-3.30 hours according to open sources.[3] Possible limited operation speed of Seahawks should be taken into consideraion if you execute MCM operation in the long channels or wide areas for clearance of mines.

On the other hand, I think there are many questions about new concept of MCM. Who will be the planning authourity of MCM ? How many warships will be loaded with mine hunting gear in a fleet at least ? How will mine survey be carried out before executing MCM by LCSs ? It seems that new concept only includes total mines detected by warships in their ability efforts New concept leads us to think that mine avoidance operation is more primary manner than sweeping and/or hunting. The warships likewise LCSs and/or their components will probably detect the mines and promulgate the positions of mines to Task Force Command for avoiding according to new concept whom we try to understand. If not, an authority should declare the percentage of clearance and the risk of channel or area at the end of the MCM Ops. It should not be forgotten that it is a known fact that MCM is a percentage game at the sea. For instance, to detect 5 mines by a LCS is not a result for a Task Force Command. Commanding officer of Task Force should know the risk percentage in comparison with percentage of clearance as known value of units’ performing. All parameters suchlike dimensions of channel or area, mine intelligence, unit numbers, speed, depths in channel/area, seabed topography, magnetic, hydrograpic and meteorologic conditions and etc will absolutely affect the MCM vessels’ performing. Who will take the responsibility to give threat assessment including risk percentage to Task Force Command ? It looks like commandig officer or senior commanding officer will probably take this responsibility according to the discussions about new MCM concept. These problems can be get worse in offensive MCM ops executed near enemy coastals.

Finally, it is so hard to take a decision for new MCM concept because of trusting cutting-edge technology of LCS or another. Otherwise it is not sure how new concept will affect the regulations of NATO concerning MCM operations. All aspects of new concept regarding operation, standarts, training, personnels, equipments, maintenance and budget should be considered before taking a decision. Does it hunt mines if it floats ? Surely the mind must have a great deal more potential than most of us currently using.[4] We can not expect every floating object or platform can execute all naval operations. But for now we can only say that ‘she hunts mines if she is a mine hunter class ship’.

Written by Alp Kırıkkanat, Director of Security Systems Department, Paragon Technology Incorporation


[1] https://breakingdefense.com/2017/10/distributed-mine-warfare-or-diluted-concerns-on-new-navy-plan/
[2] https://breakingdefense.com/2017/10/every-ship-a-minesweeper-navy-looks-beyond-lcs/
[3] http://www.mh-60.com/mh-60r/
[4] Sharma, Robin, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, pg.81, 2014, London, Harper Collins Publishers.


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.

About Alp Kırıkkanat

Most of his professional life time was on board minelayers, minesweepers, auxiliary and frigate. Starting from electronics maintenance officer to final step security manager in Turkish Navy. Also served as the project officer, the trainer and the inspection manager at many headquarters. Finally, retired in 2011 in order to take part in private sector with his all experiences. He is in charge of the Security Systems Department of the Paragon Technology Incorporation. Graduated from Turkish Naval Academy and Atilim University-International Relations (MA).