Over the past year, the United States has begun to shift operational strategies away from ongoing counter-terror operations and toward a resurgence of near-peer level threats presented by China’s rapidly expanding military and Russia’s aggressive use of their own limited military capabilities. Over nearly two straight decades of the War on Terror, the United States has, as U.S. Air Force Colonel Michael Pietrucha recently put it, taken its “eye off the ball” when it comes to developing strategies and technologies suited to countering threats posed by national level militaries. America has a deep stable to pull from when it comes to weapons technologies, allowing for some creative new solutions to long standing warfare problems, most recently involving the B-52 bomber.
One such threat America has a renewed focus on countering is the presence of encroaching enemy ships on and below the surface of the water. Earlier this year, for instance, Russia announced a successful training operation in which they deployed nuclear attack submarines to the waters just outside American naval bases all along the East Coast. The United States opted not to formally respond to Russia’s claims, but rapidly announced the return of the Navy’s formerly defunct Second Fleet — which will re-absorb operations as America’s primary line of defense along the East Coast and in the Northern Atlantic where Russian submarine activity is said to be at its highest since the Cold War.
Elsewhere in the world, the United States faces similar waterborne threats in places like the contested waterways of the Pacific. China’s rapidly expanding Navy may only truly be a regional power at the moment, but within that region, their power is becoming significant. A conflict in the Pacific would rapidly become a quagmire of complicated alliances and bloody naval battles, and while China employed their advanced hypersonic anti-ship missiles as a means to enforce an area denial “bubble,” America’s anti-ship strategies would have to remain rather traditional: using ships and mines to deter the approach of any opponents.
That’s right, the U.S. Navy and Air Force have taken a renewed interest in the laying of offensive mines, which serve as a powerful deterrent for surface ships and submarines alike. However, thanks to some off-the-shelf technology developed for other applications, America’s newest sea-mine laying methodology could offer a variety of new uses for one of the oldest Naval tricks in the book.