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In an essay published on the US Navy NavyLive blog on 14 December, Maj.Gen. Christopher Owens, USMC, Director, Expeditionary Warfare, summarised the challenges faced and progress made by the navy in addressing the future mine warfare mission.

He identified three key objectives currently being addressed in what he describes as “one of the Navy’s most complex warfare areas:”

·         Replacement of current air and surface platforms with multi-mission assets (especially the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and MH-60 helicopter);

·         Induction of new technologies to do the “time consuming, dangerous and dirty work;"

·         An increase in clearance and confidence levels across the entire MCM portfolio.

The MCM-1 AVENGER-class vessels will be progressively retired from 2019 and Owens emphasises the need to maintain equivalent capacity and capability as transitioning to new systems continues. The induction of UUV such as the Mk18 Mod 2 will ensure naval EOD personnel maintain expeditionary MCM capability – but the impact of unmanned systems will spread far beyond the expeditionary mission to encompass other maritime platforms and domains.

In November the Navy declared IOC for the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Airborne Mine Neutralisation System (AMNS) for the MH-60S. Both systems will be tested on the LCS next year. Other MCM systems to be tested as the service seeks to refine and update its capabilities include unmanned influence sweep, surf/beach zone detection systems, low-frequency broadband search and near-surface neutralisation, as well as continued advances in unmanned systems.

Although Owens makes a virtue of the “overlapping capability” provided by the current mix of legacy and new systems, it is clear that major efforts will continue to be required to ensure USN MCM capabilities stay ahead of the evolving threat curve.

 

Sailors assigned to Task Group 56.1 launch a Mk 18 Mod 2 UUV. (Photo: US Navy)

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