The Importance of Mine Warfare for Brazil
By Dialogo March 21, 2014
Mine warfare is the knowledge and skill necessary to use sea mines and annul their effects when employed as an instrument of aggression. Its operation is divided into undermining (launch of the mines) and mining countermeasures (destruction of launched mines or of those pending launch).
A submarine mine is an explosive device with the purpose of breaking the surface of naval assets or submarines, or disrupting maritime traffic in a given area. There are contact mines, which are activated when the ship comes in contact with it, and influence mines, which are activated by a variation of acoustic, magnetic and environmental pressure that surrounds them. These different types of mines can be launched off ships, submarines and aircrafts. The Brazilian Navy launches the majority of its mines from ships and submarines.
The first mines were used in the American Civil War, but it was during World War II that they were used on a large scale. The best example was Operation Starvation, undertaken by the Americans against the Japanese, when planes launched 12,000 mines that destroyed three-quarters of Japan’s Merchant Navy.
The result, in addition to the immeasurable losses, was a substantial war effort made by the Japanese to clean these mines, for which 349 sweeper vessels were used. The result could not have been more significant: 670 Japanese ships were sunk while the United States lost only 15 aircraft in the operation. During the entire conflict 500,000 mines were launched, sinking 1,500 ships and damaging another 500.
Another example is the Korean War, where the landing of 50,000 soldiers, who were onboard 250 ships, was delayed for eight days so that the sweeper ships could clean the area, and due to the postponed landing, U.S. forces lost the surprise effect for the military action. During this operation, the U.S. Naval Force commander said that they had, “lost control of the sea for reed boats,” used by the North Koreans to launch mines.
However, in the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein ordered the release of obsolete mines in 10 maritime areas within the Persian Gulf, close to Kuwait, causing the coalition forces to take 40 days to undertake mining countermeasure operations, and the USS Princeton and USS Liberty destroyers were seriously damaged.
The effectiveness of mines was proven in numerous conflicts and they continue to be potential agents of destruction against naval assets
From an economic perspective, the value of a mine is relatively low, between $1,500 and $100,000. In the case of the USS Samuel Roberts, a mine costing only $1,500 caused a 96 million dollar loss to the United States. The same type of mine created a three million dollar cost in repairs to the USS Tripoli.
The mine may be referred to as, “the weapon for the weaker against the stronger.” Any country has the capacity to carry on this kind of war, where any type of vessel can be used, such as fishing vessels or tugs. Also, it is a cleaner war, because it usually gives the enemy the opportunity to decide whether or not to enter the mined areas, assuming the risk of possible losses.
For Brazil, the mine is an excellent weapon to defend their territory, given the different social and economic demands still pending, and it was proven to be a priority investment for the country’s government.
Considering the strategic significance of the mine war, the sea is essential to Brazil and its use should be ensured by an appropriate and capable military force. About 95% of Brazil’s foreign trade is done by sea, and 85% of the nation’s oil is extracted from the so-called Blue Amazon area.
Virtually, the entire Brazilian coast can be undermined and the simple announcement of the existence of mines in the vicinity of a port already creates enough apprehension to disrupt the maritime traffic. The fact that Brazil demonstrates the ability to undermine and to neutralize mines that are thrown in its waters is a factor of great importance for its national defense. In the face of new demands that arise in the coming years, as, for example, the construction of a nuclear submarine and its own naval base, the Brazilian Naval Operations Command deemed necessary to restructure mine warfare within the Brazilian Navy.
The Equipment and Articulation Plan of the Brazilian Navy provides for the inclusion of minesweeper ships into the Brazilian Navy’s inventory and, as is now well known within Brazil, this is now an indispensable resource for naval operations’ mining countermeasures. The restructure proposes to divide the ships into strategically positioned squadrons in order to provide clean canals, ensuring the exit and entrance of nuclear submarines into the base and meeting the mine-hunting needs in other points of the Brazilian coast.
Besides, it involves the creation of a military organization for the overall coordination of mine warfare affairs to identify and prioritize its needs, thus achieving a greater degree of efficiency and resource conservation. This will be a Mine Warfare Center with specific tasks regarding the development of doctrines and tactics in this area, the maintenance of an interest database, the implementation and operational analysis of the resources and systems of mine warfare, orientation and courses, and the concentration of the existing information.
Additionally, a training plan will be created to address the needs for specialists, undergraduate and graduate education for military personnel (officers and soldiers) and civilian students who are performing mine warfare activities, which require well-trained teams to be executed, state-of-the-art equipment and compatible logistical support, because the mines always become treacherous and difficult enemies to neutralize, representing serious threats to those who are transiting mined areas.
Excellent comment regarding the War Against Mines in the country. I work at GAAGueM (War Against Mines Assessment and Training Group â€“ MB/2DN), and I live this routine daily. I would like to read other articles related to landmines in Brazil. Nilson Campos de Sousa | 2015-05-10
Excellent comment about the landmines in the country. I work for the GAAGueM (Mine Warfare Training and Evaluation Group - MB/2DN), and that is my daily routine.