You may think that with all of the other threats out there, why would fighting mines be a priority? You may have images of World War II ships cruising the high seas and laying mines in hopes an enemy vessel will sail close enough to sink it to the depths.
Mines are not a thing of the past. They’re a cheap, problematic, dangerous, and increasingly smart weapon for violent extremists interested in closing sea lanes or making ocean transit a dangerous game.
Enter the Navy’s Mine Countermeasures ships, or MCMs. These small, fiberglass and wood-hulled ships, with their crews of less than 90, combat those stealthy mines with both high tech gadgets, and old school know-how. They are able to detect, classify, and remotely detonate the mines safely, and keep the seas open.
The six MCM ships home ported at NSA Bahrain routinely patrol the Arabian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz to ensure safe passage for ships of all nations. Their crews are well-trained and always on the lookout for waiting mines. Working with properly equipped heavy-lift helicopters (SH-53), MCM ships are a formidable force in the active defense of theater shipping from mines and waterborne improvised explosive devices.
Aircraft carriers and amphibious ships that patrol the gulf may get all the fanfare, but without the MCMs clearing the waterways, they would not be able to safely navigate sea lanes and carry out their missions in a time of crisis.
MCMs are the cog that will keep the well-oiled machine that is the 5th Fleet running smoothly if international sea lanes are threatened.