Hello defence lovers! In this article, we are going to discuss a very important topic. We are going to understand what are naval mines, what are the different types, how these are deployed how these are used and why these are a potential threat for all Indian ships navigating in the Indian waters.
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device that is placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any vessel. Naval mines can be used offensively, to hamper enemy shipping movements or lock vessels into a harbour; or defensively, to protect friendly vessels and create “safe” zones. Naval mines are good means of establishing sea denial to the enemy vessels.
History of Naval Mines
The concept of naval mine was first developed by the generals of the Ming Dynasty of China in the 14th century. These primitive mines were nothing but wooden boxes filled with explosives, which were uses to harass the Japanese Pirates. Later during the 16th-century mines slowly came to Europe. By the 20th century and especially during the second world war, mines became a crucial component of naval warfare. Millions of mines were laid during the second world war and these had sunk hundreds of ships. Often hundreds of mines were laid to create protective minefields around the harbour which kept sneaky enemy submarines looking for opportunistic hits away. The germans used mines extensively to sink the cargo ships which brought essential cargo to Europe. After the world wars, mines were also used in Korean and the Gulf war in which they have sunk multiple American ships.
Types of Naval Mines
There are various types of mines but the following two types are the most common ones.
The earliest naval mines were usually of this type. These are still used today, as these are extremely low cost compared to any other anti-ship weapon and are effective, both as a psychological weapon and as a method to sink enemy ships. As the name suggests, Contact mines need to have physical contact with the target before detonating.
Early mines had mechanical mechanisms to detonate them, but these were superseded in the late nineteenth century by the “Hertz horn” (also known as the “chemical horn”), which was found to work reliably even after the mine had been in the sea for several years. The mine’s upper half is studded with hollow lead protuberances, each containing a glass vial filled with sulfuric acid. When a ship’s hull crushes the metal horn, it cracks the vial inside it, allowing the acid to run down a tube and into a lead-acid battery which until then contained no acid electrolyte. This energizes the battery, which detonates the explosive.
The Moored Mines have a weight attached to them which keep them anchored to a certain point. Moored mines remain at a particular depth and thus can target different types of vessels such as submarines and surface ships. Moored mines have different types of detonation mechanism. During world wars contact moored mines were the most common one. Modern mines have various advanced detonation systems such as magnetic detonation, radio detonation, pressure detonation etc. Modern moored mines are way more sophisticated than what these used to be in the second world war era.
Why Mines Are The Biggest Threat To Indian Waters?
Laying mines is a very simple and cost effective process. Where as clearing mine fields is a difficult, time consuming and expensive task. Mines can be laid from variety of platforms such as ships, aircrafts and submarines. To deal with hostile mines, Mine Counter measure vessels aka Minesweepers are required. Indian Navy used to operate Minesweeper few years ago, but it had to retire its last minesweeper due to its age and increasing maintainanace cost.
As of now Indian Navy does not operate any minesweeper but is desperately trying to acquire some. Minesweepers are even more important than any submarine or destroyer in the present situation. During any conflict, the Pakistani submarines can sneak into Indian waters and can deploy mines silently which can inflict heavy damage on the Indian side. In such a scenario Pakistan can easily lay some mines at the entrance of important naval harbours. The absence of a Minesweeper would halt all operations from those harbours which would give Pakistan Navy a strategic upper hand. Indian Navy would have to rely on friendly country’s minesweepers to get the harbours cleared.
Thus Minesweepers should be the utmost priority of the Indian Navy. Till now the deterence of Indian Navy has prevented Pakistan Navy from doing such misadventures but we must be prepared for all situations.