The U.S. Navy is making what could prove to be a costly—and potentially dangerous—mistake by moving away from surface mine-countermeasures vessels and toward unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) instead.
The Navy’s new push is being driven by decision-makers’ fascination with the dramatic advances being made in UUV technology. Almost day by day, underwater vehicles are becoming more sophisticated and less costly, potentially capable of delivering precision anti-mine weapons. And the improvements are coming at a spectacular pace. To many, UUV designers seem to be at the cusp of a major breakthrough in this field.
In fact, however, such assumptions are flawed, and UUVs are still a long way from being ready to replace traditional mine-countermeasures ships. Although the underwater robots admittedly are cheaper, the surface vessels consistently outperform them in detecting, classifying and neutralizing mines anywhere except within confined harbors. And the ships carry remotely operated vehicles and can deploy explosive ordnance disposal divers as well.