Thursday, April 27, 2006

Supercavitating Naval Mine Fields

The military utility of Shkval-type, supercavitating rocket torpedoes has been minimized by many analysts and observers including this one. However useful this torpedo may be (besides type 'E' Shkval's ability to generate export revenue for Russia), more clandestine application is not beyond possibility.

China's unguided, EM52 rocket-propelled mine is laid on the sea floor to blast surface vessels. Russia's PMR-2 rocket mine is a seabed weapon capable of firing a homing rocket upwards with similar purpose. Great depth, wide target engagement zone and fast strike deprive targeted enemies of any opportunity for countermeasure or evasion.

The CAPTOR (enCAPsulated TORpedo) mine is an American anti-submarine weapon from the Cold War. It consisted of a Mk46 torpedo with enough passive sonar to detect differences in acoustic signatures of ships and submarines.

Is the supercavitating torpedo—a rocket-propelled weapon enveloped in nearly frictionless gas bubbles the latest update to deadly seabed mines?

Imagine 6x6 seabed arrays of acoustically directed, HE-tipped supercavitation rockets (perhaps 1/5 the 27-foot length and 1/6 the 1.75 foot diameter bulk of Russia's VA-111 Shkvals). MSCRs (Mini Super Cavitating Rockets) would mightily protect engagement zones up to about 2-4 square miles. Vessels like MV Dolores Chouest or AS-28 could use remote controlled submarines for placement, periodic maintenance retrieval and replacement. Has the U.S. deployed such mines? - Probably not since the long war on terrorism does not call for such measures.

Countries like the Koreas, Taiwan, Japan and Venezuela, just to mention a few, may have different outlooks on their defensive needs and perhaps the capital to pay for MSCR arrays.

Submarines are always silent and strange.


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