4

Countermine Warfare

All potential opponents to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious operations, whatever their level of sophistication, will be able to use mines and obstacles in the approaches to beaches, on the beaches, and in inland transit and landing zones. If not appropriately countered, the mines can be “show-stoppers” for operations from the sea just as much as the shoulder-fired, IR-guided SAMs discussed earlier could be—more so in fact, because they can attack all Navy and Marine Corps means of movement: ships, landing craft, and landing aircraft. Moreover, overcoming the problem with current techniques can take days or weeks, a time scale not compatible with planned high-tempo operations.

Building a countermine capability for OMFTS is a matter of devoting enough command attention and resources to obtaining the needed capabilities. Many countermine capabilities, some of which are reviewed below, are available, in development, or conceived. Determining the countermine force sizes needed is beyond the scope of this study, but it must be emphasized that the Navy has rarely devoted extensive resources to this area. Often, the United States has been able to depend on our allies to supply the assets, but since future crises and conflicts will involve shifting coalitions we cannot be certain who our allies will be or what capabilities they will bring to the fray. The Navy and Marine Corps must build enough kinds of capability, and in sufficient quantity, and they must devote enough attention to the problems at all command levels, to ensure that mines do not stop amphibious operations at critical times, either in the seaborne or inland phases of a campaign.

It is impossible to describe briefly the huge variety of mines and obstacles that can be brought to bear, but some of the richness of the mine warfare field can be suggested. Mines of various size, up to thousands of pounds, in deep water (over 40 ft) can be floating, moored, or resting on the bottom. They can be released to seek their targets, fused to explode if disturbed by a swimmer, or exploded by contact or by the influence of various physical phenomena such as ship acoustic or magnetic signatures or the pressure wave created by a ship's passage. Mines in shallower water and in the surf zone can also be buried, and can be exploded by command as well as by passage of the target. Mine fuses can have counters that allow several targets to pass before they are exploded by the “n”th target. Analogous mines on land, buried or on the surface, can be designed to attack personnel, landing craft, or armored vehicles. To guard aircraft landing zones, Claymore-type wide area mines can be elevated on



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The Navy and Marine Corps in Regional Conflict in the 21st Century 4 Countermine Warfare All potential opponents to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious operations, whatever their level of sophistication, will be able to use mines and obstacles in the approaches to beaches, on the beaches, and in inland transit and landing zones. If not appropriately countered, the mines can be “show-stoppers” for operations from the sea just as much as the shoulder-fired, IR-guided SAMs discussed earlier could be—more so in fact, because they can attack all Navy and Marine Corps means of movement: ships, landing craft, and landing aircraft. Moreover, overcoming the problem with current techniques can take days or weeks, a time scale not compatible with planned high-tempo operations. Building a countermine capability for OMFTS is a matter of devoting enough command attention and resources to obtaining the needed capabilities. Many countermine capabilities, some of which are reviewed below, are available, in development, or conceived. Determining the countermine force sizes needed is beyond the scope of this study, but it must be emphasized that the Navy has rarely devoted extensive resources to this area. Often, the United States has been able to depend on our allies to supply the assets, but since future crises and conflicts will involve shifting coalitions we cannot be certain who our allies will be or what capabilities they will bring to the fray. The Navy and Marine Corps must build enough kinds of capability, and in sufficient quantity, and they must devote enough attention to the problems at all command levels, to ensure that mines do not stop amphibious operations at critical times, either in the seaborne or inland phases of a campaign. It is impossible to describe briefly the huge variety of mines and obstacles that can be brought to bear, but some of the richness of the mine warfare field can be suggested. Mines of various size, up to thousands of pounds, in deep water (over 40 ft) can be floating, moored, or resting on the bottom. They can be released to seek their targets, fused to explode if disturbed by a swimmer, or exploded by contact or by the influence of various physical phenomena such as ship acoustic or magnetic signatures or the pressure wave created by a ship's passage. Mines in shallower water and in the surf zone can also be buried, and can be exploded by command as well as by passage of the target. Mine fuses can have counters that allow several targets to pass before they are exploded by the “n”th target. Analogous mines on land, buried or on the surface, can be designed to attack personnel, landing craft, or armored vehicles. To guard aircraft landing zones, Claymore-type wide area mines can be elevated on

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The Navy and Marine Corps in Regional Conflict in the 21st Century tripods to attack vertical lift aircraft on landing and troops on disembarking from them. Mine density affects the ability to find and clear or neutralize mines in a short time, and therefore influences both the kind and amount of countermine resources needed. Mine densities in deep water might be measured in terms of only a few mines per square mile. In shallow water and surf zones, there might be a dozen mines in the 50-yard pathway that must be cleared for an assault force to move ashore. Scattered antipersonnel and antitank mines on land may be as dense as dozens per acre; buried antitank mines on roads or elevated antiaircraft mines in landing zones will be less dense on average because their effective areas are larger and because they tend to be placed at strategic locations. However, they may be clustered at strategic locations. Obstacles to landing on the beach could be reinforced concrete blocks of various shapes and sizes; crossed, welded, and embedded railroad rails; embedded telephone poles; or concertina wire and razor tape. If the obstacles do not actually damage the vehicles and injure the personnel who attempt to cross them, they can stop would-be penetrators for long enough to make them targets for defending fire. Eliminating mines and obstacles from the path of an invasion requires operations by mine sweeping and clearing ships and helicopters, by special operations forces, and by the landing forces themselves in the surf and landing zones. Such capabilities exist in the mine countermeasures and minehunter class (MCM-1 and MHC-1) ships, the minehunter (MH)-53E helicopter, and various towed sonars and SEALs (sea, air, land teams), all of which can find and clear or neutralize mines in depths of up to 20 ft. SEALs have clandestine capabilities to locate, classify, tag, and place explosive charges on mines at shallower depths, in 12-ft depths or less, and to prepare explosive charges to destroy beach obstacles. The amphibious assault ship Inchon (LPH-12) is being refitted as a mine countermeasures command, control, and support ship (MCS) for use by the Mine Countermeasures Group Commander in an amphibious force. All such operations take time, and stealth must be preserved in the vicinity of landing beaches and zones. The longer the mine clearance operations take, the greater the chance that the landing force's stealthy cover and thus the element of surprise will be “blown” and that new mines and obstacles will be emplaced by a resourceful enemy. The very shallow water and surf zones, from about 12-ft depth in through the craft landing zone on the beach, are especially difficult to deal with in this respect. The time taken to overcome mines and barriers can deny surprise to the landing force. The Marines have focused attention in their requirements process on the idea of “in-stride” mine clearance in the shallow water and surf zones, so that the landing forces in these zones can simply move at the time and speed

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The Navy and Marine Corps in Regional Conflict in the 21st Century they choose, as though the mines had never been there. This is unrealistic, since the mines cannot be attacked until the landing zone is “announced ” by the initiation of the landing. A more realistic objective in overcoming mines and barriers in these zones is to convert them from a potentially insuperable obstacle to the status of a “speed bump. ” The following steps represent the least that should be taken. All of them incorporate existing capabilities, capabilities in development, or those that are within the state of the art. What is required is the application of resources, the attention of management and command, and the diffusion of mine warfare awareness and operational responsibility throughout the Navy structure, to ensure that the resources are applied in an appropriately focused manner and that the capabilities are integrated into the OMFTS concept: Pre-hostilities observation and denial of emplacement. This requires enhanced surveillance and intelligence analysis of potential crisis areas, including pre-hostilities intelligence on mine production, storage, and movement to possible deployment areas, so that the extent of local mining capabilities and areas where mines may be emplaced can be anticipated. In international waters, emplacement of minefields can be denied, or mines once emplaced can be cleared with justification at any time. If operations appear imminent, these denial and clearing operations can be extended to projected sea-base sanctuary areas (e.g., for logistic “warehouses at sea”), even if those operations may penetrate waters claimed as territorial. Movement to emplace a minefield at sea is considered a clear indicator of hostile intent, and a successful countercampaign at this stage can save considerable effort later on and perhaps forestall further hostilities. Pre-assault minefield surveys and neutralization. Once an intended landing area has been chosen but before it has been revealed, covert minefield surveys in shallow water, mine location in GPS coordinates, and set-up for neutralization or destruction on command can be undertaken by appropriately equipped SEALS. Although underwater vehicles and sensors exist, much of this capability remains to be fully developed. Rapidly deployable explosives in very shallow waters. Work is under way on deployable line charges (Shallow Water Assault Breaching System [SABRE]) and explosive nets (distributed explosive technology [DET]), to explode mines in the surf zone in the vanguard of a landing force. Under one concept, a lead AAAV would deploy these charges, but other means, from other vehicles, could be devised.

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The Navy and Marine Corps in Regional Conflict in the 21st Century These developments are viewed as the key to rapid movement to a beach through a mined surf zone. Obstacle clearance. Means are needed for rapid clearance of defenders' obstacles other than mines from the path to the beach. Such techniques, which could be used under circumstances where mines have not yet been cleared from the intended channel, might include the use of robotic bulldozers able to run in the surf and up onto the beach, direct fire from tanks on LCACs to clear heavy concrete obstacles, and small, remotely operated vehicles that can carry explosive charges to obstacles and either detonate them on contact or be detonated on command. Precision emplacement of large explosive charges (PELEC). Another approach has been proposed and its feasibility demonstrated analytically,1 but it has yet to be taken up seriously. PELEC involves dropping a string of GPS-guided penetrating 10,000-lb bombs along the intended path of the 50-yard-wide channel needed for the invasion landing craft. Calculations show that if dropped at intervals of 20 yards and exploded within .01 seconds of each other in a line charge analog, the bombs would create a channel effectively cleared of all mines and obstacles that is 50 yards wide and 10 to 15 feet deep. A secondary benefit would be reduction of surf along the resulting channel. The bombs would be dropped by the bomber force in a joint operation with the Navy and Marine Corps. PELEC is the only approach that can comprehensively handle the problem of rapidly clearing a transit channel through mixes of various kinds of mines and obstacles in the surf zone and the craft landing zone. It should be developed and tested, and, if the tests are successful, deployed. Clearing mines from inland landing zones. Although Marine vertical lift aircraft have the flexibility to land in any area found to be unoccupied and undefended, there is always the possibility that a smart enemy, knowing his own terrain and force disposition, will anticipate likely landing zones and mine them to set an ambush. An obvious means to protect against this possibility is the use of preparatory fires from long range to clear the landing zone and the area around it. 1   Mine Countermeasures Technology, Volume II: Task Group Reports (U) (classified), National Research Council, Naval Studies Board (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1994).

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The Navy and Marine Corps in Regional Conflict in the 21st Century Distributed-effect warheads, such as those discussed earlier for tactical attack missiles, could perform the task without creating craters that would interfere with troop mobility after landing. The potential presence of civilians in the vicinity may preclude use of such fires, however. Special operations forces can scout potential landing zones as one precaution. Three Army ATDs are seeking means for detection and rapid clearance of land mines, and may yield results applicable to the Marines' problem in this situation. This entire area needs attention as the potential for airborne landings deep in enemy territory is expanded. RECOMMENDED ACTIONS The Navy and Marine Corps have long been aware of the mine and obstacle problems in amphibious warfare. Work is under way to resolve them, but it is not as far along as it might be. For example, PELEC is not yet being seriously supported as a means to reduce the mine and obstacle problem to speed bump status. There are 12 ATDs involving Navy, Marine, Army, and joint systems, making up an ACTD in the countermine warfare area. Although they will contribute strongly to solution of the problems outlined, and the Navy and Marine Corps must remain cognizant of and ready to use the results of those not within their purview, the 12 ATDs will not solve the problems fully. The Navy and Marine Corps must assign staff and operational responsibility and build the expertise for mine and countermine warfare at all levels. They must fully define the overall system problem from the approach of an invasion fleet toward the littoral to landings on the beach and far inland, evaluate all the alternatives to resolve the component sub-problems, and devote the necessary command attention, R&D attention, and resources to the total problem if it is not to become a main stumbling block to successful implementation of OMFTS. While the sea mine problem may remain a substantial responsibility of the Navy Department, with other Service inputs such as the PELEC approach described above, the problem of land mines is of great concern to both the Army and the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps should continue to work with the Army to seek solutions to the problems of finding and evading or neutralizing land mines in movements ashore and in air landings and subsequent maneuvers deep inland.