Navy fast tracks mine hunter Ship Procurement
After cancelling the deal with South Korean company last year, Navy now looks for foreign support to construct up to twelve minesweepers in Indian shipyards valued some $5 billions, Navy already sent formal expression of interest letter to South Korean Kangnam, Spains Navantia, American Lockheed, German Thyssenkurpp and some Russian Shipyards. Indian Navy operates some six Russian origin mine hunter ships, which is almost decade old and waiting for decommission, as last year Navy decommission first batch of mine hunter ships, with no option left to clear the sea lines Navy needs to fast track the minesweeper procurement.
Mines are considered as traps, same like land based mines, they were buried in the sea, there were three kind of mines found in sea, floating mines, moored mines and bottom mines, the floating mines are easily detected by visually, however moored and bottom mines needs mine-sweeping systems, acoustic devises and magnetic cables to disarm or safely detonate the mines, detecting the underwater Mines is pretty hard, due to it's size and signatures. to safely disarm or detonate the mine the ship could have towed systems, like towed sonar system which can be extended up to some 1500 feet off from the Ship,
The ship comes with a remote mine hunting vehicle RMV, which confirms and gives visual information to the crew about the presence of mines, which are already identified by the towed sonar system, the RMV uses multiple IR Camera's to visually confirms the mine, a cutting device used to cut the moored mines chain to surface it safely, which allows the crew work safely to dis arm the mine.
Practically mines are more smart enough to escape from the mine hunters and work very smartly which didn't allowed him to disarm, thus need a special equipment to activate the mine and safely detonate far from the ship, those mines works with the submarines acoustic signature , means it can explode when it detects submarines presence through it's acoustic signature, during the early days those mines comes with magnetic detection, which can attract the metals of the ships then explode, which caused severe damages to the allied forces Navy during the world war two, later they went to non magnetic hulls, having no magnetic characteristics. so mines too changes from Magnetic to acoustic detection mechanism.
Only way to clear those mines is destroying it safely, where modern Mine hunters comes with a self propelled acoustic device towed behind the ship, which makes noise and activates the mines using it's magnetic field, once the field is activated and the ship moves to a safe distance, the mine detonates, which is a known technique to safely detonate such mines, as technology's changed the need of such modern devices presence must needed in every Mine hunting ships, the Indian Navy's earlier pondicherry class too have such system, however it's not enough for future needs,
Even the world war two era moored mines are still active in the sea, which can also harm many surface ships, there is a another mechanism used to safely disarm the mines, the term called magnetic influence sweeping, for this the ships comes with a thick cable dragged off the tails, the cable used to produce some 5000 amps of current which creates a large electromagnetic field behind the ships, which activate the magnetic mines to explode,
Usually those mines can be dropped in the sea, using air crafts, and surface ships and submarines, this low cost system allows, to escape from enemy chasing and blockading naval bases. one such mine is stronger enough to disable a bigger warships or submarines, two or three is more than enough to destroys a warship or submarine completely. once enemy ship snooped around friendly waters, the mine hunting ships could operate close to that area for scanning any suspicious mine activity,
During a interview with defense news, a Retired Indian Navy's Mine counter ship's commander says " Minesweepers or mine countermeasure vessels are very sophisticated technology products, Including hull material, acoustic and magnetic reduced signatures, mine-hunting sonars and remotely piloted vehicles, and also the design methodology are not easy. That said, it is not undoable in India, but that is like reinventing the wheel."
The Indian Navy wants the mine hunter ship to be light, which is some 800 to 1000 tons category, having composite anti magnetic hull, with the above said technologies, Navy plans to buy some twelve such ships as urgent basis and another twelve in later, the first batch of 12 ships construction could be started before 2018 and deliveries from 2021 to 2025. and all those ships could be constructed in Indian shipyards under make in India plan.