Sea Mines

#1
Always in pursuit of ways to make myself look stupid, I have a potentially bone question:

Are minehunters busy destroying legacy mines from previous conflicts or are there still modern, maintained mines laid to deny shipping lanes etc., or used in anticipation of future hostilities?

Also, are there any figures to indicate how many years certain sea lanes, or inlets etc may take to completely clear (I am thinking of the landmine estimates for certain countries/battle fields taking 'x' number of years to make safe)?

Cheers
 
#2
There is still loads of stuff in the Baltic from WW2 i can tell you that off the top of my head. We are currently conducting some operations in the gulf as well left from Iraq but i would have to look into that for you because i have been "out the minewarfare world" shall we say for a while.

With regards the time it takes to clear my understanding was that you could never be "100%" clear because they are sometimes a dam sight hard to find and random stuff still does get dredged up or pulled in by fishermen but i will have a look around for you and get back to you.
 
#4
JJ - During WW I, the British laid 116,000 mines and the Americans laid 56,000 mines in the North Sea and English Channel alone. The Germans laid 43,636 mines worldwide including 1,360 minefields containing 25,000 mines in British waters. During WW II, the British laid over 185,000 mines for protective purposes in all theatres of war and over 76,000 mines (nearly 55,000 by aircraft, 11,000 by fast minelayers and destroyers, 5,500 by Coastal Forces and 3,000 by submarines) in enemy waters. The Germans laid over 120,000 mines and 30,000 minesweeping obstructors in north-western Europe alone plus many more in the Mediterranean.

Until relatively recently, the Hydrographic Office published NEMEDRI (North European and Mediterranean Routing Information) showing areas still dangerous owing to WW II mining. At least one wartime mine is found around the UK coast each 2-3 weeks, especially after storms have stirred up the mud and sand under which thousands still lie buried, and others turn up during routine exercises around Europe. While many of these ceased to function properly long ago, I have personal experience of a wartime bomb or mine exploding beneath my own vessel when weighing anchor in Falmouth Bay as recently as 1983. Luckily, we were in 42m of water but the damage was still severe. Most fortunately of all, I had divers in the water ten minutes before and had only recalled them back on board because of worsening weather conditions.

In recent years, RN minehunters have deployed in the North Sea and Baltic with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) and harvested quite a crop of wartime ordnance:

Role of SNMCMG1
NATO website said:
...SNMCMG1 makes the sea a safer place for everybody. This year the Group will conduct Historical Ordnance Disposal of some of the thousands of mines left from previous conflicts. By doing so, the threat from old WWII mines to fishermen and others will be reduced. In 2005 Dutch fishermen were killed when a mine was caught in their net and dragged aboard and detonated...
The Baltic states in particular retain minelayers and stocks of mines to seal access routes but they are not alone:

Naval Minelayers
Wikipedia" said:
...In modern times, most navies worldwide no longer possess minelaying vessels; the United States Navy, for example, uses aircraft to lay sea mines instead. A few navies still have minelayers in commission, including those of Turkey, South Korea, Norway, Sweden. and Finland, countries with long, shallow coastlines where sea mines are most effective...
Of course, a nation does not need dedicated minelayers to pose a threat. Historical precedent shows that landing craft, fishing boats, dhows, junks and speedboats will do just as well.
 
#5
NG

Thanks very much for that; a really interesting part of Naval operations I know nothing about.

Are there figures for the number of mines collected/made safe by UK Mine Warfare activities each year?

Also, OPSEC considered, are there modern cold war era mines dug up or discovered still?
 
#6
JJ - All RN EOD teams report monthly figures up through the COC but you'd probably need to make an FOI request for collated numbers and the MOD is fairly busy with other matters at the moment.

OPSEC prevents me from answering your second question but you might find the following open-source documents of interest:

Russian Sea Mines
China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress
(Read from 'Mines' on page CRS-100 in Appendix B onwards)

Bear in mind the proliferation of FSU and Chinese weaponry/technology in general and you can draw your own conclusions.
 

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