An Assessment of the Navy's Mine Warfare Mission

C-MASAD-81-13: Published: Apr 30, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1981.

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Mine warfare consists of the control or denial of sea or harbor areas through the laying of minefields and countering enemy mine warfare by destroying or neutralizing their minefields.

GAO found that the Navy would find it hard to conduct even the most limited type of mining or mine countermeasures operation. Several new mine programs which are in development or limited production should alleviate a number of these weaknesses and provide an effective mining capability. However, it will take time before the effects of these improvements can be seen. Airborne systems to perform mine countermeasures suffer from lack of aircraft, spare parts, and personnel. Helicopters are restricted to certain areas of water in which they can operate and in their ability to locate and counter certain types of mines. Airborne mine countermeasures should see considerable improvement by the mid-1980's. These improvements should provide the helicopter with a much broader capability than it currently has. However, no funds have been programmed for the planned purchase of new helicopters. Surface mine countermeasures forces are plagued with maintenance and spare parts problems. The force is further degraded by inadequate numbers of ships, their aged and deteriorating condition, and a lack of experienced personnel. New mine countermeasure ships and equipment should improve surface mine countermeasures capabilities, but certain limitations will still exist. Large amounts of money will be needed to fund this new equipment. GAO believes that the Navy should determine whether they are going to give mine warfare a high budget priority. Actions should be taken by the Department of Defense which will better define the severity of the mining threat to the United States.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, until most of the mine countermeasures improvements are available in the mid-1980s, take actions to increase the readiness of surface ship and airborne mine countermeasures units. Specifically, actions should address personnel deficiencies, platform shortcomings, and equipment deficiencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require that steps be taken to obtain information necessary to provide a better understanding of Soviet mine warfare intentions. As these data are determined, mine countermeasures force level objectives should be adjusted accordingly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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