Mine warfare is thriving - both for the traditional maritime powers and for the smaller nations who are building up their navies in order to police and defend their Exclusive Economic Zones The threat today from the sea mine is primarily In the Gulf but it IS also present in other seas The modern weapon can camouflage and hide itself and be selective about its target Countering the sea mine requires new skills and equipment which are particularly tested when the reconnaissance and clearance operation has to take place quickly and without being detected


The sea mine conjures up the image of a floating black sphere with horns and with the hero of some film using a long oar to fend it off a ship's hull The buoyant mine, so depicted but badly sown because it should have been 2-3 metres below the surface, still remains a significant weapon for the smaller maritime nations However it is gradually being replaced by more sophisticated ground mines and rocket propelled rising mines, both of which Ile and hideon the seabed In addition there has been a surge in the development of small anti-invasion mines laid in shallow water It is now possible for any maritime nation to purchase sea mines on the arms market which can attack shipping in shallow water or on the ocean The sea mine remains an unobtrusive yet significant weapon and those nations who rely upon maritime trade for their prosperity and survival must have the means to counter it


The sea mine has a primitive method of destroying or maiming its target but it is constantly evolving new and innovative ways to remain hidden In the Second World War the early buoyant mines were located using wire sweeps These mines were then superseded by ground mines which detected ships and were triggered by acoustic or magnetic means These in turn were countered and detonated by towing noisemakers and cables which generated the required magnetism For the last 20 years mines have primarily been countered by locating them on the seabed using active sonar However the mine IS now being built like an underwater stealth bomber in shapes and using materials which absorb the searching sonar of the mine hunter We eagerly await the scientists? next solution to the problem of finding and destroying sophisticated modern mines

As mines are upgraded so the older variants, which take up little space and are built with high reliability, tend to be retained or sold to others The scope of mines now held in armament depots ranges from 1960s technology to present day Meanwhile on the seabed mines from the Second World War are still being recovered at a rate, around the UK, of about four a year The explosive in these mines still remains powerful and a German 20001b GZ mine, found by a fisherman In the Thames estuary in November 1999, blew up when primed by a small charge of plastic explosive In 1999

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