Mine warheads use underwater blast to inflict damage on the target ship or submarine. The damage energy transmitted is approximately equally divided between the initial shock wave and the expanding gas bubble. If the target is straddling the gas bubble, then it will have unequal support and may be broken in two. As the detonation depth increases, particularly in excess of 180 feet, the effect of the gas bubble causing damage is greatly diminished; therefore, bottom mines are rarely used in waters exceeding 180-200 feet.

Captor mines have also been developed that actually launch a smart torpedo that then passively and actively homes in on the target before detonation. Torpedo warheads must be capable of damaging both ships and submarines. Homing in on the screws can achieve a mobility kill. Detonation under the keel at midships can cause the severe gasbubble damage mentioned with mines, and if the depth is less than 300 feet, the reflected shock wave can substantially increase the damage effects. Torpedoes that actually impact the hull of a ship or submarine have to overcome the double hull/void structure. Deep-diving submarines with especially thick hulls require highly specialized warheads. Shaped charge warheads are envisioned as the solution to this problem.

Mines are classified according to their delivery method, the position they assume in the water, their method of actuation, and their use. When classified by delivery method, they are referred to as aircraft laid mines, submarine-laid mines, or surface-laid mines. When classified according to the position they assume in the water, they are either bottom mines, moored mines, or drifting mines. When classified by their method of actuation, they are divided into three types: contact, influence, and controlled. And when classified by use, they are referred to as service mines, exercise and training (ET) mines, and fleet service mine test (FSMT) mines.

Service mines are the mines available in the U.S. Navy stockpile for operational use. Operational mines currently in inventory include the Destructor (DST) mine, the Captor series, the Quickstrike series, and the Submarine Launched Mobile Mine (SLMM). The MK 50 series mines, formerly operation service mines, are now classified as exercise and training.

No platform in the U.S. Navy has been designed with mine delivery as its primary warfare task, however mines can in fact be delivered by aircraft, submarines, and, to a limited extent, surface ships. The P-3 Orion aircraft is an accurate delivery system; and any aircraft that can deliver bombs, such as the S-3 Viking, A-6 Intruder, A-7 Corsair II, or F/A 18 Hornet, can lay mines. Many attack submarines can also deliver mines.

The Navy has a primary responsibility to develop and test mines and delivery techniques and to organize, train, and equip forces to conduct minelaying operations using surface, subsurface, and aerial techniques. The Air Force has a collateral function to train forces for the conduct of aerial minelaying operations.

The U.S. must prepare minefield plans for all geographic locations where a mining requirement exists. These plans must consider the availability and quantity by type of mine stocks that will possess the greatest threat for a given time. Minelaying forces must be maintained in a state of readiness to conduct immediate mining operations when directed. Augmenting forces are assigned as required, and are available to conduct additional mining after initial offensive actions and other factors are evaluated.

Mining readiness is continually emphasized. Training is conducted to ensure that selected aerial and submarine forces remain in a state of mine readiness. Naval air forces and mine assembly personnel are capable of rapid deployment to operate from overseas bases and carriers. Tactics for minelaying in a hostile environment are under constant development, and prepositioned mine stocks are held in a high state of readiness to support approved mining plans. Research and development continues for new mines and components, including such features as improved capabilities against submarine and surface targets, better resistance against minesweeping and hunting, more flexibility, easier and less expensive maintenance, simpler and faster preparation for laying, and improvement of mine detection and control systems with increased sophistication. 


Last updated 12 May 2010


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