Wednesday, December 6, 2023

US Air Force tests aerial deployment of naval mines from a safe distance

The US Air Force tested stand-off deployment of QS-ER naval mines from a B-52H.

If much of the attention regarding modern naval combat focuses on the use of anti-ship missiles, sometimes hypersonic, the weapon that has, in recent decades, caused the most damage to both military and civilian navies, is none other than the underwater mine.

Thus, since the end of the Second World War, only 4 US Navy ships have been hit by anti-ship missiles, while 14 buildings have been damaged by mines, four American ships even having sunk during the War of Korea and one during the Vietnam War.

If significant efforts have been made in the field of detection and suppression of underwater mines in many world navies, this is also the case in the field of mines themselves and their deployment.

The deployment of a naval minefield most often responds to two priorities. Either it is a question of protecting a space under control, or of preventing the adversary from using access or naval infrastructures.

In the latter case, only two vectors can be used to achieve this: underwater vectors, whether submarines or drones, or the air vector, planes or helicopters.

However, when it comes to deploying a network of mines over space controlled by the adversary, the bombers loaded with the imposing mines find themselves vulnerable. Thus, in December 1972, a US Navy A7 Corsair II was shot down while carrying out a mining mission in the port of Haiphong, in North Vietnam.

A-6s were used to drop naval mines during the Vietnam War
The US Navy's Operation Pocket Money, launched in May 1972, blocked the Haiphong Gate for more than 300 days using naval mines dropped by the A6 and A7 of the US aircraft carriers.

While anti-aircraft means have made immense progress since then, it became necessary to design a naval mine that could be dropped from a safe distance and capable of being deployed with great precision, as is now the case with most precision air-to-ground munitions, called "stand-off".

This is precisely what a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress has just demonstrated, by deploying an inert version of the QuickStrike Extended Range (QS-ER) mine off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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