Given the near complete absence of mine countermeasure assets in the US Navy, the nightmare scenario in a war is an enemy that uses a few submarines to lay a handful of mines in mainland American ports and then has only to sit back and watch the Navy convulse in an effort to race back from the war front to clear and protect our ports.
Our entire MCM fleet – all 6-8 LCS (and the few Avengers and HM-53E helos that we might not have yet retired) – would have to be brought back from any overseas missions to conduct port clearance.
Even then, we’d only be able to clear and maintain a maximum of 8 ports even using the minimal, and inadequate, tasking of one LCS per port.
Unfortunately, the US has many dozens of ports.
While this mammoth convulsion was on-going, our commercial shipping would be brought to an abrupt standstill. A clever enemy – and no one is accusing Russia or China of not being clever! – would be able to institute a total blockade of the entire United States via a handful of submarine laid mines.
How’s that for a return on investment in low cost mines and a few subs?
Such a move would have the added benefit, for the Chinese, of depriving the US fleet of its overseas MCM capability which means the fleet would be unable to go anywhere that mines were even suspected – which would be almost everywhere! Thus, in one stroke, the Chinese could paralyze both our commercial shipping and our naval actions.
So, clearly a bad news scenario for us.
Fortunately, we are frantically working to build lots of additional dedicated minesweepers and new MCM helos. Oh wait … we’re actually not doing that at all. We’ll set aside the staggering stupidity of our non-existent MCM plan and force and press on to a related aspect .
Having recognized the catastrophic nature of this scenario, why can’t this scenario be turned around? Why can’t we use our subs to lay a few strategically placed mines in and around the Chinese Hainan base/port, for example? Why can’t we mine the various chokepoints around the South China Sea through which Chinese merchant shipping must pass? hy can’t we mine the Taiwan strait? And so on.
Theoretically, there is no reason why we can’t turn the scenario around. Of course, the reality is that we no longer have the capability or weapons to achieve such a scenario. Our mines are nearly obsolete and our subs almost never practice mine laying (see, “Offensive Mine Warfare – Operational Usage”).
The attractiveness of being able to apply against our enemies the same mine warfare that we dread encountering is so blindingly obvious that one can’t help but be stunned by our near total neglect of offensive mine warfare. What little mine awareness we have is directed towards the ill-suited and ill-conceived LCS MCM module. We need to remember and regain our offensive mine warfare mindset and capability.
Source: Navy Matters