The Administration’s FY 2011 defense budget request asks for $57 million for the Mine Warfare Mission Package (MWMP). Intended primarily to be deployed on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the MWMP is at the heart of the Navy’s effort to develop a new organic mine countermeasure capability. The Navy faces a critical shortfall in its dedicated mine countermeasure capabilities with the retirement of the Osprey class of mine hunting ships and the growing obsolescence of the remaining, small fleet of Avenger vessels. Also, new technologies are required in order to deal with advanced sea mines now available on the open market. The planned MWMP configuration will consist of a combination of nine ship-based, unmanned and helicopter-borne mine detection and neutralization systems.
In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, the leading members of that chamber’s mine warfare caucus expressed their strong support for the proposed appropriation. The letter pointed out the growing threat from sea mines both to the ability of U.S. maritime forces to operate effectively overseas and to the security and safety of U.S. waterways and ports. In fact, since the end of World War Two, sea mines have damaged more U.S. naval vessels than all other threats combined.
Although the MWMP is designed for primary use with the LCS, an organic mine countermeasure capability could be deployed on other platforms. This provides enormous flexibility in responding to potential situations in which LCS units may be conducting other missions, as well as the ability to surge mine countermeasure packages in response to a greater-than-expected threat.
Because of delays in deploying the LCS, the Fleet has yet to get its hands on the MWMP. This in turn is retarding efforts both to test the package’s technologies and to develop appropriate concepts of operations. In order to correct this problem, the mine warfare caucus suggests that the Navy aggressively test the MWMP by deploying them on other available platforms. Their letter points out that “placing these new capabilities in the hands of today’s warfighter will allow them to provide needed feedback to developers and create much needed concepts of operations for the new equipment.”
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