Saturday, January 28, 2023

Australia To Buy ‘Smart Sea Mines’ In Billion Dollar Deal That Can Differentiate Between Military & Civilian Ships

Australia is moving forward with its plans to purchase advanced sea mines to defend its territorial waters from Chinese and other potential enemies’ naval incursions, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The government will spend up to $1 billion on procuring high-tech underwater weapons. 

The steps, which represent Australia’s first significant investment in sea mines since the Vietnam War, are meant to deter China and other potential rivals from sending ships and submarines into the country’s waterways.

The report, citing sources, said the government would soon declare it had inked a contract with a European arms supplier to buy many sea mines. 

The report added that the Department of Defense plans to purchase sophisticated multi-influence ground mines that respond to pressure, magnetic, and acoustic impacts from approaching boats. Furthermore, they can be dropped from an aircraft, a ship, or a submarine onto the ocean floor. 

graphic-0
Source: Royal Military Academy of Belgium, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, University of Portsmouth

In a statement, the Department confirmed to SMH that it was speeding up the purchase of “smart sea mines.” It stated the new technology would assist secure marine routes and safeguard Australia’s borders.

The high-tech mines can discriminate between military targets and other ships,  distinguishing them from indiscriminate land mines. A yet-to-be-confirmed European supplier will supply high-tech naval mines that can be remotely activated and deactivated. 

According to sources, the overall cost of the deal is confidential but likely to be in the $500 million to $1 billion range. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told ABC television that he would not pre-empt such national security concerns.

He stated that the government would respond quickly to the Defense Strategic Review, implying a swift change in readiness for new conflict arenas.

“We need to make sure we have the best possible defenses. So we have looked at missile defense, we’re looking at cyber security, we’re looking at all of these issues,” Albanese said.

Australia Aims To Boost Its Naval Capabilities 

Sea mines are self-contained explosive tools that can be positioned in strategic choke places like straits and harbors to detonate invading enemy naval ships. The last significant effort by Australia to build up a sizable stock of sea mines was halted in the 1990s.

Defense experts have noted that Australian defense forces require a combination of influence mines and more advanced encapsulated torpedo mines that can be released from surface ships (offshore patrol vessels and craft of opportunity), aircraft (P-8s and heavy lift units), and submarines.

According to experts, sea mines are a realistic countermeasure for Australia to implement as China is investing enormous sums of money in building a navy with long-range capabilities. Besides that, the sea mine is also a very adaptable warfare device that gives nations both offensive and defensive options.

Naval mines
File Image: Naval Mines

Under former Defense Minister Peter Dutton, Australia’s Defense Department initiated the SEA2000 project in 2021 to investigate ways to improve its wartime capabilities by deploying smart sea mines.

Over the past few years, Australia has sought to increase its defense budget, and in 2021, it even signed a contract to purchase nuclear submarines from the US and UK.

China planned to expand its influence in the Indo-Pacific region and signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands last year. These actions by Beijing have alarmed the United States and Australia as they have long viewed the region as their sphere of influence.

HMAS Canberra arriving at Pearl Harbor for RIMPAC 2016 (Wikipedia)

According to Australia’s Defense Minister Richard Marles, the country must be reinforced with enough deadly weapons to resemble an island porcupine, or echidna in local parlance, to stave off an attack by a belligerent foe.

The report noted that Marles would receive a comprehensive analysis of the nation’s defense forces at the beginning of February to reshape the military to meet modern threats. 

Australia has lately made significant announcements regarding the acquisition of cutting-edge weapons, strengthening its defense capabilities in the face of a serious threat from Beijing. 

For instance, Australia inked a contract with Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace (KONGSBERG) for the sizable purchase of Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) and related equipment.

The fifth-generation KONGSBERG NSM is a highly effective, long-range, precision strike weapon intended to knock out heavily fortified naval targets in contested scenarios with a secondary function for land attack.

Additionally, Australia announced earlier this month that it would invest up to $2 billion in enhancing Australia’s missile capabilities, including purchasing the famed HIMARS long-range rocket system. 

The latest development comes as China quickly increases its stockpile of sea mines, which has risen to almost 100,000 as the country tightens its military focus to the Taiwan Strait and the Indo-Pacific.

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