Photo: Lockheed Martin/U.S. Navy
Four Navy minesweepers will be sent to the Persian Gulf in late April, as reported by Barbarra Starr at CNN.The additional deployments are part of an effort by Gen. James Mattis, head of the U.S. Central Command, to boost American military capability in the region in the face of Iranian threats to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.
“We are moving four more mine sweeps to the theatre,” [Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month]. “That’ll make eight. We are moving airborne mine countermeasure helicopters. That’ll take us to eight in theatre. And … those, working with the British mine sweeps there, which we exercise with frequently, sets us up a little bit there.”
Each of the ships – the USS Sentry (MCM 3), USS Devastator (MCM 6), USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Warrior (MCM 10) – carries a crew of about 60. All are equipped to detect and neutralize mines.
The Navy this month also sent to the region four additional MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters, which also have the capability to locate and destroy mines.
The Navy will also be sending the USS Ponce (LPD-15) to the region in the next few months to act as a floating staging base. Manned by a military and civilian crew, the vessel will provide refueling, resupply and maintenance operations for minesweepers, aircraft and patrol craft at sea in the region.
The United States has long believed that Iran would try to shut down the strait by seeding the waters with mines (to keep both commercial and military shipping from operating). The mines may be tethered to the sea floor and are difficult to detect.
New detection and destruction technologies including lasers are being developed but have yet to be deployed.
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