The aim of Naval Mine Counter Measures
To allow own warships and merchant vessels to use the seas and enter and leave harbors, when necessary, without unacceptable damage or losses from mines
The ultimate aim is to reduce the RISK from sea mines.
In Naval Mine Counter Measures (NMCM) the following techniques are used:
Minehunting, minesweeping and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).
Minehunting uses sensor systems (e.g. sonar) to reach the seabed and water volume for the presence of mines. Once detected, classified and identified the mine is destroyed by exploding a mine disposal charge brought next to it, either by a remotely controlled underwater vehicle or by divers.
The vehicle used within the Belgian and the Netherlands Navy is the Seafox which is equipped with a sonar, a mine disposal charge and a TV-camera. The camera image of the seafox will be analyzed within the operational center on board of the ship. If the contact is identified as a mine the seafox will be detonated with the mine.
The “classic” minesweeping consists of:
Towing steel wires through the water. These are equipped with explosive or mechanical cutters which will sever the mooring cable of moored mines. The surfaced mine will then be destroyed by divers.
Towing an acoustic device as a noisemaker and/or an electric cable or solenoid generating a magnetic field. These signals simulate the target ship. A correct simulation will seduce the mine to explode under the sweeping gear. Other signatures to be simulated with more sophisticated gear include seismic or underwater electric potential (UEP).
EOD is the technique whereby divers systematically search the areas, where minesweepers and minehunters cannot operate. The mines found are then countermined.
An AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) is a relatively new sensor and seems very promising in locating potentially dangerous underwater objects…But whatever technique is used, NMCM remains a slow and complicated process with a very high risk. None of the weapon systems can guarantee success if its operators have not received adequate instruction and training.