An enemy mine is basically a psychological weapon. Amid an atmosphere of billion dollar high tech weaponry the underrated or ignored mine can wreak havoc with ship deployment options. The psychological potential of the underwater mine, whether it is a moored, bottom, contact, magnetic, acoustic, pressure or other type, is enormous. Thus, the ability to project a mining threat into enemy waters may be critical. Recent deployment of mines in Nicaraguan harbors have emphasized a single fact: a shipping area is literally paralyzed if the possibility of it being mined exists.
Psychological pressure on an enemy can be applied by the mere suggestion that an enemy aircraft, a surface ship, or submarine might have been engaged in mining. It is easy to visualize naval ports being effectively bottled up by the faked use of this psychological ploy. Moreover, current mine-sweeping assets would be severely taxed to meet any large scale mine scare – one carried out in several port areas, and which would result in a paralyzed fleet or an overly cautious deployment of fleet units.
We should seriously consider the potential of quality mining by submarines. We should demonstrate this submarine “ability” to project sea power. We must realize that the enemy’s assets in this area surpass ours . We know that he sincerely believes in mining as a principal method of projecting force, as is evidenced by the size of his mine stockpiles. It is equally obvious that the enemy respects the potential of the tactical and psychological warfare resulting from use of this weapon. His superior mine sweeping assets are evidence of this.
As a submariner, thoughts of conducting a minelaying operation never engender a feeling of pleasure or confidence. The mission will always be conducted in hazardous waters at slow speeds and noisily — all detrimental factors. The navigational problem is also a concern, since an improperly placed minefield becomes hazardous to all forces including our own.
Setting aside the operational aspects of submarine mining, there are still psychological aspects at play for the submariner assigned this mission.
Since the dedicated schooling and allotted at-sea training time for mining is minimal, the importance of mining is downplayed in one’s mind. Lack of high level concern with this training deficiency is also disconcerting. The “mind-set” against mining at all levels needs correction.
Another adverse psychological reaction is that since submariners are basically trained to shoot torpedoes, there is a resentment to filling valuable skids with mines. Torpedoes are more exciting and more easily understood. Reviewing the historic record of World War II, the most vital of all statistics in the submarining trade, was “TONNAGE SUNK” . The mark of a submariner’s success was tonnage. Good torpedo placement was the only acceptable gauge of a submariner’s expertise.
These two factors, lack of mining training and the fact that mines are passive weapons which reflect little on the quality of professionalism, cause submariners to respond with limited enthusiasm or even disinterest to a mining assignment. Although these factors are usable to justify an attitude, submariners slight an invaluable tactical and psychological tool which can be used to project sea power in modern naval warfare.
The time has come for a reconsidering of submarine mining capabilities and an overcoming of a generally unfavorable attitude towards this mission.