Offensive Mining

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In all our recent discussions and posts on mine countermeasures I have completely ignored the subject of offensive mining but the recent BALTOPS exercise included a demonstration by the USAF of offensive mining using their B-52’s and Mk 62 Quick Strike mines, loading only, no mines were actually droppped.

Navy Mark-62 Mines + B-52 • Russian & Chinese Sub Killer

Mk 62 Quick Strike Mine

The Mk62 is part of the wider Quick Strike mine system that includes the larger Mk63 and Mk65. The system is very simple, take an existing bomb body (227kg, 454kg and 907kg respectively) and add on a tail fin that includes the appropriate pressure and magnetic sensors.

Simple, quick, easy.

Clever stuff.

The UK’s focus has been on mine countermeasures and although BAE produce the advanced Stonefish mine, none are in service with the RAF or RN.

Indeed, a 2002 Parliamentary Question confirmed the emptiness of the cupboard.

The Royal Navy has no specialist minelaying vessels although most vessels in the fleet, including submarines, could be adapted to lay mines if deemed necessary. The Royal Navy does not have any mine stocks and has not had since 1992. Notwithstanding this, the United Kingdom retains the capability to lay mines and continues research into mine exploitation. Practice mines, used for exercises, continue to be laid in order to retain the necessary skills

With a resurgent Russia, is offensive mining a capability gap that needs filling?

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Mercator
Mercator

The (no doubt older) mk36 and mk41 versions of that same idea are still kicking about in the Australian AP-3C Fleet, I think. There’s nothing flash about them though. I imagine if you can find an aircraft that can drop a mk82 or mk84, you could screw in the fuses and be in business very quick smart. I was led to believe they are ballistically identical.

Malcolm Whitlock
Malcolm Whitlock

Certainly when the USN had MOMAG’s sited in the UK (Machrihanish & Glen Douglas) these weapons made up a fairly large party of there inventory which we held at GD as supplements to the Mk80 series of weapons which we held for USN and USMC use,

Chris Werb
Chris Werb

My understanding is that, within the last few years, the RN gave up all minelaying capability (other than dummy exercise mines) and that our Stonefish stocks had been decommissioned. The Army gave up its Shielder/Volcano systems at around the same time.

Deja Vu

Disappointed that this was not about WW1 Mines under Messines Ridge etc.

Was wondering in Asymmetric Warfare if there were risks from modern directional drilling techniques as used by frackers for example.

Mike W

TD

“With a resurgent Russia, is offensive mining a capability gap that needs filling?

I know that you are posing a question here but do you feel that, with “a resurgent Russia”, the need for offensive mining might also apply to land forces as well? Does the Army need to be looking at a successor to Shielder, for instance? Or is the need greater at sea? I remember a reply you sent to me, some time ago now, in which you said that you wouldn’t be surprised if the British Army never laid another minefield. Have things altered? And does it all go to show that we must be flexible and prepared for any eventuality by retaining an all-round capability? (i.e always expect the unexpected.)

Chris
Chris

Mike W – I rarely believe any prediction that this or that capability ‘will never be used again’ as the smart minds in defence never stop concentrating on what strategy tactic or capability would best deflect slow or defeat an opponent. Only those items banned under treaty should be put on the ‘Do Not Use (unless really desperate)’ list.

Mike W

TD

“Do you think we will ever lay a minefield again?

I don’t.”

Well, that’s certainly clear enough. Thanks, but I do think that there is also a lot in what Chris says in his post.

Chris
Chris

TD – I respectfully disagree on the question of never again – I doubt whether the assembled brainpower* of No10 had a clue whether anti-tank mine was different to anti-personnel mine but that was largely irrelevant because the 2003 operations were remote and not directly threatening the country’s sovereignty. If in 2003 the situation had been that France had fallen and an aggressive threat was hungrily eyeing the white cliffs with a view to invasion, even that nice Mr Blair would have eagerly agreed to the deployment of mines (and all other defences possible). Its easy to be all huggy mr. nice guy when the threat is distant and limited. Maybe it should be law that the PM’s residence goes wherever he deploys the forces? That would be one way to up the defence budget. Anyway. Will UK deploy minefields in future? Quite probably but only when the politicians feel they are directly threatened.

*Brings to mind a phrase used by an elderly teacher back in my home town, who on noting pupils making stupid decisions would declare “You’re about as bright as a TOC-H lampbulb!”

Deja Vu

Seems odd to retain 432/Bulldog but give up the barmine system. Even if new mines with insensitive explosives were required.

As we don’t lay live mines on exercise, mines tend to last longer than other munitions, have all our stocks gone even the Mark 7’s.

Whilst minefields are generally seen as defensive, Soviet doctrine included minefields in the offensive for flank protection. With so few tank regiments available, wouldn’t a mine capability be a prudent investment, particularly if it were Made in Britain.

Observer
Observer

What are the legal requirements of air dropped minefields? And of the implications vis a vis the Ottawa Treaty? What about the public fallout from people who do not differentiate between the AP and AT stipulations in the Ottawa Treaty? Or of the legal need to mark minefields?

It might be coming to the point where land mines might be more trouble legally than it is worth to use militarily.

ForcesReviewUK
ForcesReviewUK

British policy no is to do goody even to the enemy. Which means no mines. If and very if they want to mine, you can be sure after the conflict the UK will want to de-mine the area it mined, charging it back to DFID.

Waste of money.

Chris
Chris

All I can recall about the life of mines came from Shielder’s predecessor, a programme called Vehicle Launched Scatterable Mine system (VLSMS). Definitely AT mines only, and not only were the mines to deactivate after a preset duration, but also a fully kitted soldier stomping on one was not to set the mine off. And just how would that be tested to MOD satisfaction?? I have no idea but certainly did not volunteer. As for the method of deactivation, the choice was the manufacturer’s. Either switching the fuse off or triggering the explosive were offered – in the one case a lot of high tech shaped charge munitions were left largely intact for miscreants to collect and attempt to reactivate, in the other case at the preset time delay the strip of mines sown by the launch vehicle would go off like a Mexican wave at the speed they were sown, much to the short-lived surprise of anyone who happened to be standing in the area at the time. Maybe its the difficulty of knowing how to render minefields safe when no longer needed that makes them an undesirable tool?

It was a neat vehicle though: http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/VLSMS-Vehicle-Launched-Scatterable-Mine-System.jpg

I find it hard to believe that at least anti-vehicle mines have been subtracted when the most recent collection of enemies have made such efficient use of the both to huge increase in casualties over what we expected ( otherwise we would of gone with MRAP’s to start with wouldn’t we?) and great cost developing countermeasures, specialist personnel and their training and the UOR purchase of the missing MRAP’s. Area denial

XBradTC
XBradTC

My dad dropped the first aerial mine deployed from a jet during wartime.
http://www.airspacemag.com/multimedia/flight-of-the-intruder-104302469/?no-ist

Also, for a look at an offensive aerial mining campaign, take a look at B-29 operations mining Japanese waters. It was a stunningly effective campaign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Starvation

Observer
Observer

Forces, no point doing harm to the enemy just to get the government that does the same harm elected out the next election and replaced with a more pacifistic government because of the PR fallout. Mines do have a very bad reputation out there due to media manipulation over the years.

Two sub-standard alternatives do come to mind. One is tele-controlled stand alone units, similar to vehicle RWS left behind in the area, but this does not cause the uncertainty and force the slow clearance unseen mines create. The other is UGS (unmanned ground sensors) where you plant a sensor in the area and use the data relayed back to punish the enemy for occupying the area indirectly.

Both solutions unfortunately do not cause the uncertainty hidden mines create. Not really sure if it is a good thing or bad. A legal government will hold off on mining, which makes me a bit thankful, being rather attached to my legs, but in return, the direct risks towards our own people increase if we ourselves can’t get a good minefield screen out.

duker
duker

Fracking is generally done at depths 6000-10,000 ft.
Perhaps you were thinking of the shallow tunnels beloved by mexican drug lords ?

El Sid
El Sid

Actually it starts at about 3,000ft (just depends where your shale is) – but directional drilling can start at the surface, you have to get down there somehow! An example of the technology being used in shallow levels is getting the cables out to tidal energy units – rather than risk exposing multi-MW of electricity in cables lying around the surf zone, they drill a hole under the beach to emerge in the calmer water at 50m depth or whatever, and then just pull a cable through the hole. Also means you don’t have pylons running up to the beach, which is always popular.

Martin
Martin

Britain gave up a mine laying capability around the same time we gave up on any form of sovereign military capability. Perhaps it’s better that we simply right a cheque each month to Washington and just cut out the MOD and BAE middle men.

ForcesReviewUK
ForcesReviewUK

Observer,

Of course the UK wants to have a superior advantage over the battlefield but laying mines may only just add a small far to that superiority. As said, it goes back to the government mindset which quite evidently, is that of a “moral” government from the mid 1990s onwards. How terrible that sort of mindset needs a longer section to debate. So as I said, the government may invest in mine-laying for the military and perhaps in future conflict xyz, it may be utilised. But in the end, the PM or officials of the day would say, we need to “re-stabilise” that country that we defeated. Thus leading to a de-mining operation which as I said, would be charged back to the UK and its allies.

This would apply both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines. And given the UK post 1990s, there would be an even slimmer chance that they would want to pursue anti-personnel mine laying all over again.

ForcesReviewUK
ForcesReviewUK

How would mine laying have helped in recent conflicts, say Iraq (2003) and Afghanistan ?

During WWII the Soviet Navy spent a lot of time mined in.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer

@Jeneral28 (Forces review)
Of course the UK will want to De-mine an area post conflict, Its is both a legal requirement and lets face it a sensible thing to do. It has nothing to do with Political correctness, being goody goody or loss of fighting spirit.

You may note that the UK is has a long running legal action regarding the Falklands and Mine fields. The UK has failed in its legal obligation to De-mine the Islands.

Now I personally think that the UN has a nerve given that the biggest reason they aren’t demined is because the UK focuses on assisting places where the N begs for help because mines threaten the populace.

Deja Vu

As I recall the FI problem was one of unrecorded Argentinian minefields and the peat, which is a living organism, moving mines.

In this day and age I presume that compass and pacing has been replaced with gps way points or equivalent, so the minefield map would be much more accurate. As UK has renounced AP mines, lifting a well recorded minefield should be relatively safe as long as you know where the anti handling devices are.

TAS
TAS

Ottawa Treaty Wiki. Key word being ‘persistence’.

“The Ottawa Treaty does not cover all types of unexploded ordnance. Cluster bombs, for example, introduce the same problem as mines: unexploded bomblets can remain a hazard for civilians long after a conflict has ended. A separate Convention on Cluster Munitions was drafted in 2008 and was adopted and entered into force in 2010. As of January 2013, there are 77 state parties of the CCM.[26] In theory, mines could be replaced by manually triggered Claymore mines, but this requires the posting of a sentry and makes this much more expensive than using other indiscriminate weapons such as cluster bombs or artillery bombardment.

Opponents point out that the Ottawa Convention places no restriction whatever on anti-vehicle mines which kill civilians on tractors, on school buses, etc. The position of the United States is that the inhumane nature of landmines stems not from whether they are anti-personnel as opposed to antivehicle, but from their persistence. The United States has unilaterally committed to never using persistent landmines of any kind, whether anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, which they say is a more comprehensive humanitarian measure than the Ottawa Convention. All US landmines now self-destruct in two days or less, in most cases four hours. While the self-destruct mechanism has never failed in more than 65,000 random tests, if self-destruct were to fail the mine will self-deactivate because its battery will run down in two weeks or less. That compares with persistent anti-vehicle mines which remain lethal for about 30 years and are perfectly legal under the Ottawa Convention.”

Brian Black
Brian Black

Isn’t it the mine laying country that is obligated to clear its own mines?

If we’re talking about a sea mining capability to counter the Rooskies, wouldn’t we need to reconsider our defensive measures too?

Until the early ’90s, we had the larger MCM fleet and the diesel subs around the UK that were intended to prevent the Soviets from isolating us with their own mines (the SSKs also had a mine laying capability).

Military threats are generally complimentary between adversaries; so if we did genuinely need a sea mining capability to counter a ‘resurgent Russia’, we’d surely need a greater defensive capability around our own islands too.

Does anyone know whether sea mines have ever been considered for part of our defence of the Falkland Islands from Argentine invasion?

In a COIN style operation were the OPFOR usually has limited access to explosives and recovers it from where it can for use in IED’s by laying mines is it just gifting them what they need? The USA policy of self destruction after a short interval seems to avoid this aspect if a little expensive .

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

Would an encircling minefield, between two fences on the perimeter of Camp Bastion, have stopped the attack the other year.

Observer
Observer

ET, and raise a huge PR stink. Not to mention a long duration base, you need to maintain the minefield, so lay mines, collect mines, refurbish them and re-lay them again. Sound like accidents waiting to happen. Minefields are by nature temporary, rapid and low duration obstacles, which is why you rarely hear of minefield protected bases.

TAS, I was taught that you were always obligated to mark minefields, persistent or otherwise.

Deja Vu

ET no, as anti personnel mines are off the menu.

O & SD Mine laying is plant and manpower intensive and takes time so would be part of battlefield preparation in defence or to protect a flank during an offensive move as part of the all arms battle. I can see no use in COIN unless we are doing the IN.

I am not suggesting anything high tech and expensive just a tupperware box filled with explosive and a fuse on top. As well as a steel collar so a mine detector can pick it up. Laid by a plough from the back of a truck and or APV. The problem with the high tech solutions is the mines go out of date before the next armoured battle.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

I completely agree that it would never have been an option, but it seemed to be about the only use we would have had in Iraq and Afghanistan for any type of mine.

@ET I think the problem with a minefield around Bastion would have been that the Talibs would surely have seen it as an opportunity to drive a bunch of women and children into it and splatter them all over the front of the Daily Mail and the Taliban Times, loosing us the the key objective (the support of the population for the Afghan government) in about 30 seconds flat.

Obsvr
Obsvr

One object lesson in minefields is the Australian Army in Vietnam. They laid a 10km long APers barrier minefield using M16 jumping mines, with a significant proportion of anti-handling devices. The minefield was supposed to be ‘covered’ by Viet local forces! A case of supreme optimism.

Reputedly it cost the VC some 50 sappers before they figured out the anti-handling devices. It then became a ginormous VC ammo stock. Rather a lot of diggers died as a result.

Obsvr

The lesson in mining comes from the Australian Army in Vietnam, a 10km long barrier minefield of M16 jumping APERS mines, many laid with anti-handling devices. It was supposed to be covered by Viet local forces.

It is thought that it cost the VC about 50 sappers to master the anti-handling devices. After that it was in effect a VC mine depot, quite a lot of diggers died as a result, despite avoiding tracks to the maximum possible extent. I know of one instance when a mine was triggered by a soldier crossing a track, it jumped but didn’t detonate. The technical term for this is a ‘die in the arrse moment’.

It led to mine removal by the layers, obviously not by hand. Locally produced out-riggers with old tyres mounted on M113s driving along the shrinking edges of the minefield

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