Naval Mine Warfare

When in 1950 the coast of WONSAN (Korea) was found to be mined, a 250-ship United Nations amphibious task force could not carry out the plan and the operation from seaward by the US/UN fleet was jeopardized and considerably delayed with heavy losses of personnel and ships. The mine counter measures forces, which accounted for less than 2 percent of all UN Naval forces, had suffered 20 percent of naval casualties.

The Korean war

“We have lost control of the seas to a nation without a navy, using pre-World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of the Christ.” ADM Smith, USN

South Korean Minesweeper

South Korean minesweeper YMS 516 blowing up on a influence mine (Wonsan Harbour)


When in 1972 the U.S. dropped mines in the harbor of HAIPHONG (Vietnam) this port became effectively closed for many months.

In 1984, the merchant navy world was shocked when, in the Red Sea, 19 merchant ships were damaged by mines of mysterious origin.

The 1987-1988 and 1991-1992 Gulf crises and the Iraq war of 2003 showed once more how vulnerable naval and merchant ships can be to mines. A pre-planned amphibious operation was abandoned after two ships struck mines, leaving 30.000 marines at sea in their ships. The land operation “Desert Storm” was carried out instead.

Mines and underwater IED’s are easy to acquire or build and are cheap, but their low cost belies their potential for harm. With costs measured from a few hundred to several thousands of euros, they are the weapons of choice for a “poor man’s navy,” or other non-state actors like terrorists, providing an excellent return on investment: low cost but high effects. Therefore, the ability to counter sea mines is not a luxury but a MUST for our seafaring nations.

A mine is a terrible object that waits…invisibly and patiently waiting for passing ships or unmanned surface or subsurface systems. The modern mine can now actively detect and select its target and explode at the most appropriate moment, i.e. when it will inflict the greatest damage to its victim.