Category Archives: mine warfare

Mines, Mines, Mines

Word is that Australia plans to invest the equivalent of $800 Million in new sea mines, sourced from Italy.

Comparatively, the Chinese have an active offensive mining development program counting an estimated 80,000 devices consisting of up to 30 types, including encapsulated torpedo mines and rising mines.

This comes as the Vigilance Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), pitched by VARD for the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet, was shown off at CANSEC 2023, complete with a stern Cube modular minelaying system installed.

Vigilance Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) with The Cube System

The system uses 40-foot containers for a wholly “bolt-on” minelaying option

A digital mockup of the Cube minelaying system on HMS Tamar, another small OPV currently in the Pacific. 

Suffice it to say, these could fit inside the open below-deck mission bay of the Independence-class LCS– here seen on USS Cincinnati (LCS-20)– while still leaving the helicopter deck and hangar free.(Photo: Chris Eger)

Meanwhile, here in the States, the Air Force is working on a program for a single B-52 to drop a dozen 2,000-pound mines from a distance of 40 miles off, one that could be very useful in the Pacific one day.

An inert Joint Direct Attack Munition QuickStrike Extended Range mine is attached to a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in early March 2023. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo 230524-F-AA323-1002)

From Air Force Strike Command:

A B-52H Stratofortress attached to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron validated the ability to deploy inert Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) QuickStrike Extended Range (QS-ER) mines from a standoff distance of more than 40 miles off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in early March 2023.

The QS-ER mine marries the concept of a Mk64 underwater mine to that of the GBU-64v1 JDAM Extended Range variant. The resulting weapon is the 2,000-pound QS-ER mine.

Traditionally mines are employed as unguided gravity weapons, forcing the aircraft to fly at lower altitudes and releasing the mines at multiple intervals rather than single releases. This means the mission cannot be accomplished in a contested waterway without accepting a high level of risk. But the QS-ER program changes this concept completely.

Spotted in the Mississippi Sound: Cool Little Haze Gray AUSVs

So we came across this interesting little guy while wandering around the small craft harbor in Gulfport last week.

A closer look shows lots of solar panels on the folded sail over a torpedo-shaped hull, a forward-facing camera, and a FLIR gimble over the stern.

This is it being towed into the harbor past the Gulfport Yacht Club by a 25~ foot RHIB workboat with sparse markings.

CF 9065 LE. Looks to be a repurposed old CG 26ft RB-S, note the painted-over red sides

They motored up to the recreational boat ramp by the repro Ship Island Lighthouse where a guy with a pickup truck and a wheeled recovery cart was waiting.

Up she comes.

The hull form has a centerline thruster stem/stabilizer.

It could be deployed by two-three men. While we watched they unloaded two of these, towing them each off with a Toyota Tundra.

Stumped? It is an Ocean Aero Triton, which is capable of sailing autonomously for 3 months on solar and wind power at speeds of up to 5 knots.

The TRITON is the world’s first and only Autonomous Underwater and Surface Vehicle (AUSV). It can sail and submerge autonomously to collect data both above and below the ocean’s surface and relay it to you from anywhere, at any time.

The TRITON was built to be versatile and to handle a range of missions across a number of industries. Our pre-packaged payloads will cover 90% of the applications in the defense, research, and off-shore energy sectors, but the system is designed to support rapid NRE efforts for more specific use cases. Optional state-of-the-art payloads include advanced modal communications for high bandwidth data transfer in remote areas as well as obstacle avoidance software/hardware to ensure autonomous reactions to unexpected mission complications.

The Specs, and some shots from Ocean Aero of the Triton submerged:

Click to big up 3452×2154

Warship Wednesday, May 10, 2023: The Sleazy B

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 10, 2023: The Sleazy B

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 56568

Above we see a view of the slipway at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., some 105 years ago this week, of the Wickes-class four-piper USS Breese (Destroyer No. 122) just after she was launched on Saturday 11 May 1918. Completed too late for the war she was intended for; our humble little tin can would be very busy in the next one.

The Wickes

Breese was one of the iconic first flight of “Four Piper” destroyers that were designed in 1915-16 with input from no less an authority as Captain (later Admiral) W.S. Sims. Beamy ships with a flush deck and a quartet of boilers (with a smokestack for each) were coupled to a pair of Parsons geared turbines to provide 35.3 knots designed speed– which is still considered fast today, more than a century later.

The teeth of these 314-foot, 1,250-ton greyhounds were four 4-inch/50 cal MK 9 guns and a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes.

They reportedly had short legs and were very wet, which made long-range operations a problem, but they gave a good account of themselves. Originally a class of 50 was authorized in 1916, but once the U.S. entered WWI in April 1917, this was soon increased and increased again to some 111 ships built by 1920.

Wickes class USS Yarnall (DD-143): Booklet of General Plans – Inboard Profile / Outboard Profile, June 10, 1918, NARA NAID: 158704871

Wickes class USS Yarnall (DD-143): Booklet of General Plans – Main Deck / 1st Platform Deck / S’ch L’t P’f’m, S’ch L’t Control P’f’m, Fire Control P’f’m Bridge, Galley Top, After Dk. House and 2nd Platform Deck. / June 10, 1918, Hold NARA NAID: 158704873

Wickes class. A close-up of her stern top-down view of plans shows the Wickes class’s primary armament– a dozen torpedo tubes in four turnstiles and stern depth charges.

Meet USS Breese

Our warship is the only one named in honor of Kidder Randolph Breese.

Mr. Breese, a Philadelphian, was appointed a Navy midshipman at the age of 15 and saw wartime service on the sloop USS Saratoga off Mexico before his appointment to Annapolis. He later went on to join Commodore Perry’s Japan voyage and in the Paraguay Expedition in the antebellum period of the young republic. Civil War service included serving on the USS San Jacinto during the Trent affair, then with RADM David Dixon Porter for Vicksburg and Fort Fisher. Post-war assignments were varied and included inspecting the battle-damaged ironclad Huascar and command of the Torpedo Station at Newport, where he passed in 1881 at the rank of captain, aged a well-traveled 50.

Laid down on 10 November 1917 at Newport News, she was launched on 11 May 1918 with Mrs. Gilbert McIlvaine, the late Capt. Breese’s daughter, as sponsor, and commissioned on 23 October 1918, just three weeks before the Great War ended.

Notably, she was built side-by-side with her sister USS Gamble (DD-123) and the two were launched on the same day.

Newport News Ship Building Company, Newport News, Virginia. Caption: USS Breese (DD-122) and USS Gamble (DD-123) on the ways between November 1917 and May 1918. Description: NH 43018

USS Breese (DD-122), double launching with USS Gamble (DD-123) at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia on 11 May 1918. NH 56567

With the line still hot, just five minutes after she was launched, workmen began putting down the keel plates for sistership USS Bagley (DD-185) on the ways that Breese had just vacated while USS Clemson (DD-186) had her plates installed on Gamble’s freshly vacant berth.

Still, our brand new destroyer was able to get some wartime service in, effectively spending her shakedown on convoy escort duty with the Atlantic Fleet Cruiser Force.

USS Breese (DD-122) photographed circa November 1918, dressed in flags. Note her dazzle camouflage, which she would shed within a year. NH 42836

Immediately after the war wound down, Breese along with Gamble and several of their sisters Destroyer Division 12, would deploy to Cuban waters for most of 1919.

USS Gamble (DD-123) and USS Breese (DD-122) photographed circa 1919, probably at Balboa, Panama, Canal zone. Courtesy of Jack Howland, 1983 NH 94956

USS Breese (Destroyer # 122). Photographed circa 1919. Note that she still wears a small hull number (“122”) in its World War I position below the bridge, as well as a large number in the post-war location on the bow. Courtesy of Jim Kazalis, 1981. NH 92527

Div 12, with Breese along with it, then set out for the Pacific Fleet, where they would be active out of San Diego for the next two years.

USS Breese (DD-122) moored to a buoy circa 1920. NH 56572

USS Breese (DD-122) in San Diego, California, circa 1920. Note her single 3″/23 “anti balloon gun” behind her forward 4-incher. Courtesy of Mr. Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California NH 56573

USS Breese (DD-122) photographed circa 1920. NH 61910

Destroyers nested at San Diego, CA circa 1920; from L-R: USS Radford (Destroyer No. 120), USS Sproston (Destroyer No. 173), USS Breese (Destroyer No. 122), USS Badger (Destroyer No. 126) and USS Montgomery (Destroyer No. 121). NH 50241

Destroyer Divisions 13, 15, 14, 11, and 10 moored in nests, off San Diego, California, circa 1922. Ships in the left foreground nest include (from left to right): USS Breese (DD-122); USS Radford (DD-120); USS Gamble (DD-123); USS Farquhar (DD-304); USS Robert Smith (DD-324); USS Montgomery (DD-121); and USS Lamberton (DD-119). The leftmost ship in the nest at right is USS Kennison (DD-138). Courtesy of ESKC Joseph L. Aguillard, USNR, 1969 NH 69514

Three Wickes (Lamberton) Class Destroyers during a public event at an unknown west coast port, maybe San Diago Ca in the early 1920s. From the left is USS Lamberton DD-119 (lead ship of the modified Wickes Destroyers), USS Breese DD-122, and USS Radford DD-120. Ships were part of Destroyer Force Division 12, Pacific Fleet

U.S. fleet in Balboa, Panama, early 1920s. The center of the photo is the battleship USS New Mexico BB-40, then a cluster of flush deck destroyers including USS Ramsey DD-124, USS Montgomery DD-121, USS Breese DD-122, USS Lamberton DD-119, and USS Gamble DD-123. In the background are the battleship USS Mississippi BB-41, the tin cans USS O’Bannon DD-177, USS MacKenzie DD-175, USS Hugan DD-178, USS Anthony DD-172, and several other destroyers and another battleship in the far distance.

With the Navy flush with destroyers and few destroyermen billets to go around, Breese was decommissioned on 17 June 1922 after just short of four years of service and laid up.

Destroyers refitting at Mare Island. View taken circa 1921-22. Many of these ships are being modified to place the after 4/50 gun atop an enlarged after-deckhouse. Ships present include (listed from the foreground): USS Lamberton (DD-119); unidentified destroyer; USS Breese (DD-122); USS Radford (DD-120); unidentified destroyer; USS Elliot (DD-146); USS Tarbell (DD-142); USS Yarnall (DD-143); USS Delphy (DD-261); USS McFarland (DD-237); USS Litchfield (DD-336); USS Kennison (DD-138); USS Lea (DD-118); and two unidentified destroyers. Collection of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenthold, USN (MC), 1932. NH 50325

Welcome to the Mine Forces

After nearly a decade on red lead row, Breese was taken out of mothballs and redesignated a fast destroyer minelayer (DM-18) on 5 January 1931. This saw her head to Mare Island for a general overhaul and conversion.

The Navy had previously converted 14 Wickes and Clemson class ships to this designation in 1920, with the simple swap out of having their torpedo tubes replaced with tracks that could carry approximately 80 1,400-pound Mark VI moored antenna mines (of which the Navy had 50,000 left over from the Great War) to drop over the side.

As noted by Destroyer

Among the lessons World War I offered the US Navy was the possibility that fast ships could be effective in laying minefields to disrupt enemy operations. The surplus of flush-deckers at the end of the war provided an opportunity to experiment.

The original 14 circa 1920 rated destroyer-minelayers were slowly replaced throughout the 1930s by a smaller group of eight converted flush-deckers taken from mothballs– USS Gamble (DM-15)(DD-123), USS Ramsey (DM-16)(DD-124), USS Montgomery (DM-17)(DD-121), USS Breese (DM-18)(DD-122), USS Tracy (DM-19)(DD-214), USS Preble (DM-20)(DD-345), USS Sicard (DM-21)(DD-346) and USS Pruitt (DM-22)(DD-347).

Jane’s 1931 entry on the type. Note Breese is misspelled as “Breeze.”

Curiously, these ships would retain their white DD-hull numbers but wear mine-force insignia on their bow, outwardly looking much more destroyer than minelayer.

Wickes-class destroyer USS Ramsey (DM-16)(DD-124) view was taken by Tai Sing Loo, at Pearl Harbor, T. H., circa 1930. Note that she is fitted out as a minelayer (DM) and retains her DD-hull number while wearing mine-force insignia on her bow. NH 49953

In addition to these minelayers, a number of Wickes/Clemson class flush deckers were converted during the WWII era to other tasks including eighteen fast minesweepers (DMS), fourteen seaplane tenders (AVD), and six fast “Green Dragon” transports (APD) plus test ship Semmes (AG 24, ex-DD 189) at the Key West Sound School and damage control hulk Walker (DCH 1, ex-YW 57, ex-DD 163) which was reclaimed from commercial service as a dockside restaurant at San Diego.

All eight of the active destroyer-minelayers were formed into Mine Squadron 1 headed up by the old minelayer USS Oglala (CM 4), flagship of Rear Admiral William R. Furlong, commander of Minecraft for the Battle Force of the Pacific Fleet, and forward-based with “The Pineapple Fleet” at Pearl Harbor, where a new conflict would soon find them.


All MineRon1’s ships were swaying at their berths at Pearl’s Middle Loch on 7 December 1941 when the Japanese attack came in. The squadron was divided into two divisions, with MinDiv2 consisting of Gamble, Montgomery, Breese, and Ramsay.

The response by Breese, among others, was immediate. From her after-action report:

At 0755 two dive bombing planes approached Ford Island from the west at an altitude of 200 ft., in horizontal flight and bombed the sea plane hangar and adjacent gasoline tanks on the west end of Ford Island. The general alarm was sounded, and the anti-aircraft battery manned. This ship opened fire with 50 cal. machine guns at 0757, the first ship to open fire in the Middle Loch area.

In all, Breese got off 1,700 rounds .50 cal. AP/tracer and 45 rounds from her single 3″/23 cal. AAA gun which had been designed primarily to shoot down balloons. Her crew also broke out the light machine guns reserved for use by the landing force– three 30 cal. Lewis machine guns and three M1918 Browning Automatic Rifles. The ship claimed one “kill.”

Four planes were observed by this officer as they were shot down in the Middle Loch area. One of these was hit by a 3″ projectile from this ship, which blew the after part of the fuselage away the remainder of the plane crashed into the west bank of the channel in flames.

By 0917, with an unidentified submarine sighted in the middle of the channel northwest of Ford Island, Breese got underway towards where a periscope had been sighted. She spent the rest of the morning hunting down sound bearings and dropped 11 depth charges on what were thought to be contacts, and Breese may have had a hand in accounting for one of the five Japanese Type A kō-hyōteki midget subs lost in the attack.

Her casualties that day included two gunners suffering minor injuries while working the 3″/23 and minor splinter damage to the ship’s rigging. Likewise, all seven of her DM sisters came through the Japanese strike’s fury and were ready for service. However, Oglala capsized through a series of strange events but would be quickly raised and returned to service as an engine repair ship.

DANFS is almost criminally short on Breese’s subsequent wartime service, summing it up as :

Breese operated in the Central Pacific from 7 December 1941 until 10 October 1944. She then extended her sphere of duty westward to include various islands in the Marianas-Philippine area and continued to serve as a minelayer and patrol ship until 7 November 1945.

Her nine-page War History, in the National Archives, shed much more light on the service.

She would lay one of the first American offensive minefields of the Pacific War, in French Frigate Shoals, and spend much of 1942 on ASW patrol around Hawaii. This would include a sortie to Midway along with USS Allen and USS Fulton, where the three ships picked up 81 men and three officers from the lost carrier USS Yorktown.

Then came some real excitement, detailed via some excerpts from her War History:

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Tucker (DD-374) sinking on 4 August 1942. Tucker had struck a mine in the area on 3 August 1942, breaking her keel. She was being towed by a motor launch from Espiritu Santo to beach her before she sank when she jack-knifed amidships about 3 1/2 hours later and sank off the northwest corner of Malo Island. The destroyer minelayer USS Breese (DM-18) is standing by, in the foreground. Photographed from a seaplane based on USS Curtiss (AV-4). NH 77031.

Breese (DM-18) underway on 11 December 1943. Note by this point in the war she had three stacks rather than four. NH 107270

Her 7 May offensive mine efforts are detailed by Destroyer

On 7 May, Radford led GamblePreble and Breese in an offensive operation to the New Georgia Group. Approaching Kolombangara from the south through Ferguson Passage, the three laid 250 mines in 17 minutes across narrow Blackett Strait, a well-known route of the Tokyo Express to Vila. The following night, three unsuspecting destroyers of veteran Japanese Destroyer Division 15—which had conducted more Tokyo Express operations to Guadalcanal than any other division—ran into it from the east at 18 knots enroute home from their advance base at nearby Vila plantation. Kuroshio sank immediately; class leader Kagero and division flagship Oyashio were disabled. Despite rescue barges sent out from Vila, they remained exposed to attacks by American aircraft, which found and bombed them the following day. Both eventually sank.

Then came a very busy string of island-hopping campaigns. 

Breese (DM-18) 22 April 1944 off Aitape, New Guinea. Note her small “18” hull number, reduced stacks (three rather than four), and green camouflage, much like that seen on the APD fast transports of the time. National Archives photo SC259984

Among the eight flush-deck destroyer minelayers, the class earned 44 Pacific battle stars. Breese accounted for 10 of these by herself, including:

  • 7 Dec 41 Pearl Harbor–Midway
  • 12 May 43 – 13 May 43 Consolidation of Southern Solomons
  • 29 Jun 43 – 25 Aug 43 New Georgia-Rendova-Vanunu occupation
  • 1 Nov 43 – 8 Nov 43 Occupation and defense of Cape Torokina
  • 12 Oct 44 – 20 Oct 44 Leyte landings
  • 4 Jan 45 – 18 Jan 45 Lingayen Gulf landing
  • 16 Feb 45 – 7 Mar 45 Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima
  • 25 Mar 45 – 30 Jun 45 Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto
  • 5 Jul 45 – 31 Jul 45 3d Fleet operations against Japan

In August and September 1945 Breese swept mines in the East China Sea “Klondike” areas and Van Dieman Straits in the Kyushu-Korean area.

Then, she headed home for good.

She transited the Panama Canal and put into New York on 13 December 1945. She was decommissioned on 15 January 1946 and sold on 16 May 1946.


Breese’s war diaries, plans, and war history are preserved in the National Archives.

Meanwhile, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum’s gallery contains her ship’s bell.

(US Navy Photo by Max Lonzanida/Released)

Breese’s Pearl Harbor skipper, LCDR Herald Franklin Stout (USNA 1926) would go on to earn two Navy Crosses in the Solomon Islands with the “Little Beavers” of DESRON 23 ( Squadron) as skipper of the new Fletcher-class tin can USS Claxton (DD-571). He retired in 1956 as a rear admiral and passed away in 1987, aged 83. The Pascagoula-built destroyer USS Stout (DDG-55) is named after him and has been in service since 1994.

Of the eight flush-deck destroyer minelayers, two were lost during the war, including Breese’s twin, USS Gamble, who was so severely damaged off Iwo Jima while screening the old battleship Nevada that she was towed to the Marianas and scuttled off Guam. The other loss was Navy Unit Commendation recipient USS Montgomery (DM-17)(DD-121), who fouled a drifting mine in Palau in late 1944 and was decommissioned shortly after limping back home.

Besides Gamble and Montgomery, at least 11 other Wickes class destroyers were lost during World War II in U.S. service. The remainder were scrapped between 1945 and 1947.

Today no Wickes-class tin cans survive. The last one afloat, USS Maddox (DD–168), was scrapped in late 1952 after serving in the US, then RN, then Canadian, then Soviet navies.

However, one of the class, USS Walker (DD-163), has been given new life in the excellent alternate history series Destroyermen written by Taylor Anderson.

There has never been another USS Breese.

Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a

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A fitting cap on the Freedom-variant LCS

In an allegory to the tale of the 16 vessel class, the final monohulled Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Cleveland (LCS 31), was christened and launched last weekend at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Marinette, Wisconsin Shipyard.

A traditional (for the yard) side launch, while such events are always dramatic, this one proved even more so when PCU Cleveland was involved in a minor collision with a commercial tugboat that was helping her take to the water.

No injuries were reported, and damage to Cleveland was reportedly “limited” and above the waterline.

Even before the incident, the Navy had reported that “Follow-on ships are planned to be launched using a ship lift system,” which translates to the new Fincantieri-awarded USS Constellation (FFG-62) class frigates.

The future Cleveland is the fourth ship to be named in honor of the city of Cleveland, Ohio. Previous USS Clevelands were the World War I cruiser (C 19), the World War II light cruiser (CL 55), and the Vietnam-era amphibious transport dock (LPD 7), decommissioned in 2011.

Sadly, her class has been probably the most troublesome to the Navy in decades.

While the Navy originally wanted as many as 28 Freedom variants in 2005 (and a similar number of trimaran hull Independence-class LCS variants) to replace the 51 old Knox class frigates and 14 Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships, the program as a whole has proved such as let down that this has been capped at 16 Freedoms and 19 Indys.

While the Indys have had their own issues with mechanical failures and hull cracks, a series of propulsion hardware defects (particularly in the transmission and combining gear) led to the Freedoms having numerous high-profile breakdowns at sea that required extensive post-delivery repair and refit– a problem that is likely still not fully corrected.

This led to class leader USS Freedom (LCS-1) to be placed in mothballs in 2021 after 13 years of service, and the first nine vessels of the class (Fort Worth, Milwaukee, Detroit, Little Rock, Sioux City, Wichita, Billings, Indianapolis, and St. Louis) all show up on the Navy’s decommission wish list with planned lay-up dates as early as this year, even though the latter two ships are realistically just past their shakedown period.

While I’d love to see the vessels rebuilt to work properly, even if that meant just swapping them out to a humble diesel-electric plant that actually worked but dropped the speed down significantly, it may be for the best to sideline these albatrosses.

In related news, the Indys seem to be finally kind of hitting their stride and only the first two (Independence and Coronado) have been mothballed. Further, the two oldest that have not completed completed lethality and survivability upgrades– USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Montgomery (LCS-8), commissioned in 2015 and 2016, respectively– are now marked for foreign military sales as part of the decommissioning plan. 

A baker’s dozen is in active service, with USS Santa Barbara (LCS-32) just commissioned three weeks ago and the final four-pack set to join the fleet in a few years. 

The future USS Kingsville (LCS 36)— the 18th Independence-variant LCS and the first warship named for the town near Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas– will be christened during a 10:00 a.m. CST ceremony on Saturday, April 23, in Mobile, Alabama.

I’ve been to the commissioning of two of these thus far, including limited tours, and was impressed with the design even though I would like for them to be much better armed, especially when it comes to ASW and AAW.

Plus, they are increasingly getting outfitted with NSM anti-ship missiles and are seeing some real West Pac in USINDOPACOM deployments.

Moreover, their helicopter decks are huge for their size, allowing them to embark a lot of different packages. For instance, all these were recently aboard USS Montgomery (LCS 8):

Speaking of which, a group of shots taken by the “Scorpions” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49 off San Diego earlier this month just captured four Indys at play off the coast in an ad-hoc surface action group. Reportedly the first ever LCS IPEX (integrated phase exercise) with a four-ship SAG. 

Four LCS underway, in early April 2023: USS Manchester (LCS 14), USS Kansas City (LCS 22), USS Montgomery (LCS 8), USS Mobile (LCS 26)

Four LCS underway, early April 2023: USS Manchester (LCS 14), USS Kansas City (LCS 22), USS Montgomery (LCS 8), USS Mobile (LCS 26)

Four LCS underway, early April 2023: USS Manchester (LCS 14), USS Kansas City (LCS 22), USS Montgomery (LCS 8), USS Mobile (LCS 26)

I have to admit, something like this, paired with a flag DDG for air defense and loaded up with full  MH60/MQ-8C air dets, could be of some actual use.

It’s an idea that has been around for a minute. As suggested in a 2021 USNI article by LCDR Christopher Pratt: 
An LCS’s offensive capability comes primarily from weapons organic to the LCS hull, the SUW mission package, and the aviation detachment’s MH-60S Seahawk helicopter. Deploying multiple SUW-configured LCSs in a SAG would increase the targeting radius of the ships’ weapons and the lethality of their combined aviation detachments.
Two mutually supporting LCS SUW mission packages could triple the integrated sensor coverage, increasing weapons employment range.6 Multiple LCSs could combine intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data from all SAG assets, including the embarked MH-60S Seahawks and the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft systems. Equipped with a multisensor targeting/surveillance system and surface-search radar, the MQ-8 is a valuable scouting platform. Two Fire Scouts operating concurrently in separate sectors theoretically could increase the surveillance range by 300 nautical miles, feeding ISR data into a common operational picture.7 The MH-60S is equipped with a Multi-Spectral Targeting System well-suited for integration into the kill chain. Two MH-60Ss and two MQ-8s would increase surveillance capacity and over-the-horizon targeting capabilities for weapons such as the Naval Strike Missile.
And that’s just two LCSs working together. What if it is a four-pack or a six-pack?

Simon Lake’s Defender found?

Simon Lake, the famed mechanical engineer and naval architect, who held hundreds of patents relating to submarine vessels, engines, and other concepts, built his first operational submersible in 1894 at age 28.

Simon Lake and his “Argonaut” submarine in dry dock. Note that it had wheels and was intended to crawl the ocean floor. Via Popular Science 1901

Later, his more mature designs were built for service to the Tsar of Russia, the Kaisers of both Austria and Germany as well as Uncle Sam.

Simon Lake’s O-12 (SS-73) retained his trademark stern and amidships planes (shown folded down in the outboard view). Note the separate flooding ports in the watertight superstructure. Drawing by Jim Christley, text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press. Via Navsource

One of his more peculiar designs was the Newport-built commercial submarine Simon Lake XV, which was later renamed Defender.

Defender at Bridgeport Connecticut. Photo courtesy Submarine Force Museum & Library

Just 92 feet overall, she displaced but 200 tons. Fitted with three torpedo tubes, Lake modified the small boat for diver operations while submerged, a concept he thought would be useful for both mine clearance and salvage work.

The experimental submarine was built in 1902 by Simon Lake, and refitted as a salvage craft, on the ways before launching at Bridgeport, Connecticut, on 1 January 1929. It was taken to New London, Connecticut, to undergo tests of safety and rescue devices with the salvaged submarine S-4. The new escape hatch, slightly open, can be seen in the bow, directly beneath the eye bolt. Description: Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, San Francisco, California, 1969. Catalog #: NH 69034

Although the inventor tried several times to interest the navy and others with public experiments with Defender, and a failed attempt to salvage gold from the lost British frigate HMS Hussar— which had rested at the bottom of New York City’s East River since the Revolutionary War– with the boat, he never managed to sell it or the design.

Amelia Earhart dressed for deep sea diving off the submarine Defender, off Block Island, Rhode Island, July 1929

Illustration of Defender, with a possible conversion to a Sightseeing Submarine

After Lake passed in 1945, Defender was hauled out to sea and scuttled by the Army Corps of Engineers in Long Island Sound.

Now, a group of divers led by Richard Simon of Shoreline Diving are pretty confident they have found the old boat.

The wreckage was first imaged as part of a bathymetric survey conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a sonar survey of the Long Island Sound conducted by Eastern Search and Survey. Both surveys marked the wreckage as “unidentified.” Simon, who had been researching Defender for years, noticed that the unidentified wreckage was consistent with that of submarine and of Defender’s dimensions. The team conducted further research before diving the target aboard Simon’s vessel R/V Integrity. The dive, research, and surface support team consisted of: Richard Simon, Bob Foster, Jeff Goodreau, Wayne Gordon, Austin Leese, Joe Mazraani, Kurt Mintell, Harold Moyers, Kevin Ridarelli, Jennifer Sellitti, and Eric Simon.
Members of the team attempted to dive the wreck on April 14, 2023, but poor tidal conditions prevented them from diving. The team revisited the site two days later, on April 16, 2023. Simon oversaw deck operations while divers Steve Abbate and Joe Mazraani descended to the wreckage. The pair found an intact submarine. The length, the size, and shape of protrusions on the submarine’s distinct keel, and the shape and location of diving planes characteristic of Lake-built vessels helped identify Defender.
Additionally, the proximity of the wreckage to the mud flats where Defender was beached prior to being scuttled further confirmed the identification.
“It is such a thrill to finally put our hands on this important piece of maritime history,” said Abbate. Abbate, who made the dive the day before his sixtieth birthday, added, “It’s also an incredible birthday present!”


Forward hatch on Defender/Diver Steve Abbate inspects one of Defender’s propellers | Photos courtesy Joe Mazraani 

More here.

Modular Mine Laying Cube

The Baltic probably has more sea mines along its bottom than any other body of water in the world. It is estimated that there are 80,000 live mines left over from the two World Wars in the ancient sea, a legacy that has kept NATO MCM flotillas regularly employed every summer.

But of course, going beyond minesweeping and hunting, the narrow seas, craggy coastline, and shallow depths of the Baltic make it ideal for the employment of such weapons and most of the countries that border it or operate upon its waves have some sort of plan for their own use of mines in a future conflict.

With that, it should come as no surprise that this little piece of bolt-on kit is being advertised and developed by a Baltic consortium based in Denmark and Finland, to both store and very rapidly deploy (when needed) modern sea mines.

Via Danish SH Defence, in cooperation with the Finnish DA-Group and FORCIT Defence companies:

SH Defence, Denmark; DA-Group and FORCIT DefenceOY AB, both located in Finland, have signed a multiparty Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to corporate and jointly explore the potential in the development of launching, laying, and storing sea mines designed by and manufactured by DA-Group and FORCIT, such as but not limited to the BLOCKER and TURSO sea mines, into the Containerized Multi-Mission Module system called The Cube™ System.

The cooperation will be based on SH Defence’s modular mission concept, The Cube™ System with associated handling equipment, and will include design and conception; supported with DA-Group patented modular SUMICO naval minelaying concept. 

Lars Gullaksen, Area Sales Director, SH Defence, said: “The Cube™ System from SH Defence is rapidly becoming the standard within modularization of maritime mission capabilities for naval, coastguard, and SAR vessels around the world, especially within NATO and around the Baltic Sea. Hence our motto The Cube – changing the game at sea.

Modern naval vessels must be capable of carrying out different missions and roles both in peacetime and wartime. Therefore, the easy and rapid exchange of capabilities is an increasing requirement for new buildings and the retrofit of naval vessels.” 

He continued: “The Cube™ System, currently available with more than 300 different payloads from approximately 160 vendors, offers a flexible and cost-efficient solution that enables reconfiguration of a vessel in only a few hours. 

This partnership with DA-Group and FORCIT allows us to jointly develop the multi-mission capabilities and expand the portfolio of payloads to include the most modern sea mines for the adaptability of both Scandinavian, NATO, and other foreign navies.” 

Kristian Tornivaara, Chief Business Officer at DA-Group Defence and Aerospace, said: “We are excited to start the collaboration with SH Defence. They are now taking real action and provide world navies the future-proof modular solution for naval minelaying. We have been working with sea mines and mission modularity for years and we have seen the need for such a system. This is also the reason for SUMICO patent, which now can be utilized in Cube System to enhance navies’ operational capabilities and flexibility.”

Hannu Hytti, Executive Vice President, Forcit Defence, said: “Forcit Defence has been developing and manufacturing modern naval mines since 1988. Recent developments in the security environment have emphasized the importance of sea denial and naval mine capabilities. With this partnership with SH Defence and DA Group we are able to provide world class full spectrum naval capabilities for maritime defence.

Mines: Still a Thing Even as USN’s MCM Force Fades

Deployed to the Baltic, Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) just found a cluster of old Russian M/12 moored pendulum contact mines laid in 1917 along Parnu Bay on the Estonian coast. Latvian Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams rendered them safe. It is estimated that there are 80,000 sea mines left over from the two World Wars in the Baltic.

Currently, SNMG1 comprises flagship Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Tromp (F803), Royal Norwegian Navy HNoMS Maud (A530), and Royal Danish Navy HDMS Esbern Snare (F342).

Mine warfare has been a task that the U.S. Navy has been fine with increasingly outsourcing to NATO and overseas allies over the past generation, as its own capabilities in this specialty have declined.

Cold War Force fading

Probably the peak of post-Vietnam mine warfare in the Navy was reached in about 1996 when the old amphibious assault ship USS Inchon (LPH-12) was converted and reclassified as a mine countermeasures ship (MCS-12) following a 15-month conversion at Ingalls. Based at the U.S. Navy’s Mine Warfare Center of Excellence at Naval Station Ingleside, it could host a squadron of the Navy’s huge (then brand new) Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon mine-sweeping helicopters.

Going small, the Navy had just commissioned 14 new 224-foot/1,300-ton Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships by 1994 and another full dozen 188-foot/880-ton Osprey-class coastal minehunter (modified Italian Lerici-class design) with fiberglass hulls by 1999.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (1 March 1999). USS Inchon (MCS-12) underway for a scheduled five-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. US Navy photo # 990301-N-0000J-001 by PH1 Sean P. Jordon.

Ingleside, Texas (Sept. 23, 2005) A cluster of Avenger and Osprey class mine warfare ships at NS Ingleside. The base’s first homeported warship was the new Avenger-class sweeper USS Scout (MCM-8) in 1992. U.S. Navy photo 050923-N-4913K-006 by Fifi Kieschnick

This force, of an MCS mine-sweeping flattop/flagship, 26 new MCM/MHCs, and 30 giant MH-53E Sea Dragons– the only aircraft in the world rated to tow the Mk105 magnetic minesweeping sled, the AQS-24A side-scan sonar and the Mk103 mechanical minesweeping system on four-hour missions– in three Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons (HM)s, was only to last for a couple of years.

As part of the slash in minesweeper money during the Global War on Terror, the increasingly NRF mission dwindled in assets with Inchon decommissioned in June 2002 following an engineering plant fire.

In 2006, USS Osprey (MHC-51), just 13 years old, was the first of her class decommissioned with all of her still very capable sisters gone by 2007.

Naval Station Ingleside, hit by BRAC in 2005, transferred all its hulls to other stations and closed its doors in 2010, its property was turned over to the Port of Corpus Christi.

The first Avenger-class sweeper, USS Guardian (MCM-5), was decommissioned in 2013 and so far she has been joined in mothballs by USS Avenger, Defender, and Ardent, with the eight remaining members of her class scheduled for deactivation by 2027, meaning that within five years, the Navy will have no dedicated mine warfare vessels for the first time since the Great War.

Speaking of shrinking assets, the Navy’s three Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons (HM 12, HM 14, and HM 15) are soon to become just two, with the disestablishment ceremony of HM 14 to be held on March 30th, 2023. HM-15 will absorb “102 full-time and 48 reserve enlisted personnel and four full-time and eight reserve officers” from her sister squadron and keep on rolling for now at least with a mission to “maintain a worldwide 72-hour Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) rapid deployment posture and a four aircraft forward-deployed AMCM and VOD capability in the Arabian Gulf,” in Manama, Bahrain in support of the U.S. 5th Fleet.

HM-12, on the other hand, serves as a fleet replacement squadron for the declining Sea Dragons in service, making HM-15 the sole deployable MH-53E squadron. After 2025, when the big Sikorsky is planned to be retired, the Sea Dragons will be gone altogether without a replacement fully fleshed out yet.

HM-14 currently has a four-aircraft forward-deployed detachment in Pohang, South Korea, in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet, and they recently had a great Multinational Mine Warfare Exercise (MN-MIWEX) with ROKN and Royal Navy assets last month, giving a nice photo opportunity.

The future

The Navy’s Mine Warfare Training Center (MWTC), located at Naval Base Point Loma, looks to have graduated about 18 Mineman “A” School classes so far this year, each with a single-digit number of students. These 150 or so Minemen will join their brethren and be eventually relegated to a few Littoral Combat Ships that plan to have a secondary mine mission with embarked UUVs and supported by MH-60S Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) helicopters that are closer to being a reality.

Let’s hope so.

The planned future is deployable Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) teams, using UUVs off LCS platforms: 

PHILIPPINE SEA (Dec. 28, 2021) – Sailors assigned to Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, transport a simulated Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) during a mine countermeasures exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden) 211228-N-PH222-1507

SEA OF JAPAN (May 15, 2022) – A Mark 18 MOD 2 Kingfish is lowered out Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) during Exercise Noble Vanguard. Kingfish is an unmanned underwater vehicle with the sonar capabilities to scan the ocean floor for potential mines. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign James French) 220515-O-NR876-104

A standard ExMCM company is comprised of a 27-person unit with four elements: the command-and-control element (C2), an unmanned systems (UMS) platoon, an EOD MCM platoon, and a post-mission analysis (PMA) cell, all working in tandem, just as they would in a mine warfare environment.
The mission begins with and hinges on the UMS platoon providing mine detection, classification, and identification. The platoon, composed of Sailors from mixed pay grades and ratings, is led by a senior enlisted Sailor and employs the Mk 18 UUV family of systems.
The UMS platoon deploys the MK 18 Mod 2 UUVs to locate potential mine shapes. Upon completion of their detection mission, the data from the vehicles is analyzed by the five-person PMA cell using sonar data and produces a mine-like contact listing to the C2 element for review.

Romanian Minesweeper Survives Detonation

According to a release from the Romanian Navy, the minesweeper Lt. Dimitrie Nicolescu (DM-29) sortied from Constanţa, last Thursday, 8 September, to respond to a flash from the diving support platform GSP Falcon of a floating mine some 25 miles NE from the port.

Minesweeper Lt. Dimitrie Nicolescu (DM-29) of the Romanian Navy. She is 200-feet oal with a displacement of 790 tons and has been in service since 1987, dating back to the Cold War. She is a variant of the old Soviet Project 266M Akvamarin “Natya” type design. Note the ubiquitous AK-230 30mm mounts. (Romanian Navy photo)

However, high winds and sea state (Beaufort 7, near gale) interfered with the recovery as it kept the MCM from launching her EOD team boat. One thing apparently led to another and the mine impacted against the hull overnight and produced a small hole. The Romanians report that Nicolescu is stable and suffered no casualties and the support tug Grozavul went to the minesweeper’s assistance to shepherd her back to port.

Since most of the 28 mines recovered/destroyed in the Western Black Sea since the start of the Russo-Ukraine war have been small riverbed/coastal types, this slight damage tracks.

Most of the devices encountered so far have been Soviet M1943 MyaM-type shallow water (inshore/river) contact mines of the type licensed to both Iran (SADAF-01 type) and Iraq (Al Mara type) back in the 1980s, typically seen with very fresh Ukrainian naval markings and contact horns covered. (Romanian Navy photo)

RIMPAC Review (and Coasties, too)

The 28th biennial RIMPAC, the world’s largest maritime warfare exercise, wrapped up last Friday. In all, some 26 nations sent 38 ships, four submarines, more than 170 aircraft, more than 30 unmanned systems, and 25,000 personnel to take part in the six-week exercise that stretched across the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

We’ve detailed some of the interesting ships already, but be sure to check out this great PHOTOEX of the combined fleet steaming in perfect formation in bright daylight.

Batteries released

There were two SINKEXs, the first of which was the recently-retired OHP-class frigate ex-USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) sent to the bottom in waters more than 15,000 feet deep and over 50 nautical miles North of Kauai. From the sea, U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Chaffee (DDG 90) shot her Mark 45 5-inch gun. Units from Australia, Canada, Malaysia, and the U.S. participated in the sinking exercise “to gain proficiency in tactics, targeting, and live firing against a surface target at sea.”

The second of which was the old gator ex-USS Denver (LPD 9), sent down almost on top of Davis. From the land, the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Army shot Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles and practice rockets. From the air, U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron 41 shot a long-range anti-ship missile. U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters shot air-to-ground Hellfire missiles, rockets, and 30mm guns. U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C/D Hornets assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, fired an air-launched cruise missile, air-to-surface anti-radiation missiles, an air-to-ground anti-radiation missile, and joint direct attack munitions.

Coasties for the layup

Of note, the Coast Guard, stretching its legs via the service’s new and long-ranging frigate-sized (4,600t, 418-feet oal) Ingalls-built Legend-class national security cutters, contributing to the largest Coast Guard participation in the history of RIMPAC. This included the NSC cutter Midgett (WMSL-757) and the new 154-foot Fast Response Cutter William Hart (WPC 1134), the Pacific Dive Locker (who took part in port clearance operations with members of the ROK Navy), and Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (who did survey work in the port in support of clearing).

Importantly, although her largest currently embarked weapon is a 57mm Bofors, Midgett has long-range sensors (a 3D TRS-16 AN/SPS-75 air search radar with an instrumented range of up to 250 km plus a AN/SPS-79 surface search set) and logged “at least nine constructive kills” during RIMPAC’s war at sea phase of RIMPAC, feeding targeting information to other assets via Link 16, an underrated force multiplier.

Midgett also embarked Navy MH-60Rs off and on during the exercise, something you can be sure of seeing during a real live shooting war. This is reportedly the first time the platform has operated from a cutter during RIMPAC

The Marines at Schofield Barracks have used FRCs in the past to set up commo nodes afloat, a task that it is super easy to imagine these shallow draft littoral vessels performing in time of crisis around scattered West Pac atolls. This worked with a mesh between the USCG’s Rescue 21 C4ISR system and an embarked Marine SATCOM team.
Marines and the @U.S. Coast Guard establish communications aboard USCGC William Hart (WPC 1134) during Large Scale Exercise 2021, at U.S. Coast Guard Base Honolulu. LSE 2021 is a live, virtual, and constructive exercise employing integrated command and control, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and sensors across the joint force to expand battlefield awareness, share targeting data, and conduct long-range precision strikes in support of naval operations in a contested and distributed maritime environment. 

Museum ship adding to real-world training

In the Western Pacific, both Australia and Japan could see an increase in American flattops crowding their ports in a time of heightened tensions. The thing is, likely opponents in the region who carriers and LHD/LHAs would be arrayed against field well-trained and likely very dedicated frogman forces who can use some decidedly old-school methods to keep such vessels sidelined.

So how do you train for that?

Well, Clearance Divers from the Royal Australian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force recently conducted a combined training activity, involving the clearance and removal of limpet mines, on the USS Midway Museum Ship in San Diego, California during the current Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercises. Ex-USS Midway (CVB/CVA/CV-41) provides a great static training installation as the 1,000-foot long, 65,000-ton warship is the only supercarrier in the world that is preserved as a museum. 

Now that makes a lot of sense.

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