"Mainstreaming" Mine Warfare
Joint Force Mine Warfare
Naval mines are a serious threat to naval operations and the execution of our national military strategy. One need only ask the crews of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58), Tripoli (LPH-10), and Princeton (CG-59)...the Navy's most recent mine-strike victims. While Tripoli was slightly damaged from her encounter with a relatively crude - but effective - Iraqi contact mine, Roberts and Princeton suffered major damage that essentially took both ships out of action. The cost to taxpayers to repair the damage to the three ships totaled $125 million; at a total mine cost of $30 thousand. Perhaps far more than its sheer destructive force is the mine's powerful psychological value. This dynamic can influence a commander's decision process and risk calculations.
Mine Warfare is not new. Some 130 years ago Admiral David Farragut, famous for "damning torpedoes" at the entrance to Mobile Bay during the Civil War, commented, "I have always deemed it (the use of naval mines) unworthy of a chivalrous nation, but it does not do to give your enemy such superiority over you." This point being that while we may not like mines, we must, nonetheless, be prepared to deal with the threat they impose. More recently, shortly after the October 1950 Wonson, Korea, mine crisis, then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Forrest Sherman exclaimed, "...when you can't go where you want to, when you want to, you haven't got command of the sea. Command of the sea is the bedrock for all our war plans. We have always been submarine-conscious and air-conscious. We have now commenced to become mine-conscious... beginning last week!"
The need for "mine consciousness" throughout the Fleet is vital. Particularly as we anticipate Joint and Combined operations on the eve of a new century. The Navy and Marine Corps' Forward...From the Sea strategic concept has expanded our naval operations from the open- ocean, blue-water combat environment to the littoral regions in which naval mines can be extremely effective
Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, we have witnessed an increase in the numbers, types, and lethality of mines. Indeed, more than 30 countries are actively engaged in their development, manufacture, and marketing. Inexpensive and widely available to any country or "non-state actors" having the cash or credit to invest in mine warfare. The capability provided through the possession of mines, help future adversaries in their efforts to "shape the littoral battlespace". Mines can influence the battlespace by channeling, blocking, deflecting, disrupting, or delaying our power-projection forces. They can exclude use from areas to which we may be called upon to achieve vital political and military objectives. Additionally, they can jeopardize the steady flow of seaborne materials, equipment, and fuels needed to sustain the forward operations of land-based air and ground forces. With 95% of all material to be sent to support future regional conflicts going by sea, the ability to close vital waterways comprises a threat of strategic dimensions.
Thus, the total force must become and stay "mine-conscious", lest we run the serious and unacceptable risk of not being able to accomplish our missions at a critical juncture in responding to future crises or conflicts.
Mine Warfare - especially mine countermeasures (MCM) - must be integrated into U.S. Naval operations in the truest sense, from the development and articulation of naval doctrine - the shared values and expectations of how the Navy-Marine Corps Team will fight - to operational concepts and tactical execution. This warfare area must take its proper place among, as well as influence, future research and development, acquisition, and modernization plans and programs. Our forward-deployed naval forces will increasingly be the principal means by which we protect vital U.S. interests. These forces must have effective means to detect and counter naval mines. Mine warfare, perhaps more than any other single littoral warfare mission area, is the "key" that will unlock the "door" to the littoral battlespace. In the most fundamental way, then, mine warfare and the need for effective mine countermeasures must be an "all-hands" concern of the Navy and Marine Corps.
The ships, helicopters, and divers of our Mine Countermeasures Force provide a "blue-water" capability that is arguably the best in the world today. That said, today's approach to mine warfare is the only U.S. Naval warfare area in which the operating forces routinely "bring in the experts" to help solve their problem. We can no longer continue to operate in this manner. If we are serious about our enduring role in forward presence and engagement, we should not have to wait days or weeks, if not longer, to execute our plans while our dedicated mine warfare forces - surface MCM ships, airborne MCM helicopters, and MCM diver teams (the Navy's MCM experts) make the long transit from CONUS bases to overseas operating areas in order to locate and clear mines. We must have organic sensors, systems, tactics, training, and planning integrated into the Fleet to "damn the torpedoes" and achieve mission objectives within desired timelines.
Our most immediate goal in this vital naval warfare area is to "mainstream" mine warfare, and especially mine countermeasures, into Navy and Marine Corps planning for, and execution of, Joint and Combined force operations in the littorals. Key to the accomplishment of this goal will be to fully integrate mine warfare into Fleet training, exercises, and deployments and to elevate mine warfare planners as "equal partners" on operational staffs. This will ensure that mine warfare considerations are given the high visibility and attention they require. We will also continue to incorporate mine warfare training and education into all levels of professional development.
An aggressive Fleet exercise program is required to validate our Mine Countermeasures Concept of Operations and corresponding Fleet requirements. These requirements will continue to drive our system acquisition priorities and science and technology efforts. Fleet exercise analyses and "lessons learned" will also provide the data needed to support mine countermeasures training and tactics development.
To solidify the integration of mine warfare, Navy and Marine Corps tactical doctrine must reflect the role of mine warfare across the spectrum of Fleet operations. This is but the first step in changing our current reactionary mindset toward mine countermeasures and developing a proactive culture that will provide the right mix of dedicated and organic mine countermeasures forces that will help bring our naval force into the 21st century.
In our effort to develop and embed organic MCM capability into our deployable forces at the earliest opportunity, our near-term plan calls for the rapid integration into the Fleet of those MCM systems currently in development that will provide high leverage to our operating forces. In the mid term, we will seize the opportunity to accelerate achievable and affordable MCM technologies and systems currently in research and development. Finally, for the long term, we will focus on innovative technologies, systems, and techniques that will ensure future organic MCM capabilities will become available when and where needed. In this manner, the Navy's dedicated MCM forces will augment and complement the organic capabilities resident throughout the operating forces in a well-grounded architecture and synergistic concept of operations.
I have chartered the Director for Expeditionary Warfare (N85) to review and update mine warfare requirements and the acquisition and R&D programs we are presently pursuing to meet these requirements. I have directed that a detailed "Campaign Plan" be developed to provide a wise investment strategy for providing near-term solutions to fill capability shortfalls and also begin the integration of organic mine countermeasure capabilities throughout our Naval Force. This "Campaign Plan" will be regularly updated to ensure it evolves in concert with changes to our Naval Doctrine and high pay-off advances in technology. This "Campaign Plan" will also be used to communicate with industry in order to engage their participation as partners in providing those dedicated and organic mine countermeasure capabilities our Fleet requires both for now and into the future.
Fleet-wide "mine consciousness" is the sea-change needed to ensure the success of Navy and Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare in the littorals. Unless countered or neutralized, mines will enable our adversaries to attack our strategy directly and impede or deter maritime operations. Our integrated ability to conduct organic and dedicated MCM tasks will constitute an important share of subsequent battlespace dominance and power projection operations. We cannot afford to forget, only to relearn subsequently, the compelling lessons from our own and other navies' histories. I am committed, therefore, to ensuring that Mine Warfare is placed and remains in the forefront and "mainstream" of the Naval Services' contribution to joint and combined warfighting capabilities. We can afford to do no less.
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