January 31, 2014 : Strategy Page
An Indian deal to buy two South Korean mine hunters (MCMV, or mine countermeasures vessels) for $233 million each, and allow India to build six more in India under license (for about 25 percent less) has been stalled for three years by the anti-corruption measures India created to reduce misconduct in the procurement bureaucracy. But in many cases these measures are used to delay procurement decisions until those complaining (often a member of parliament) gets something in return. Not cash, of course, as that would be corruption, but something technically legal (like a future favor). To get needed purchases made the government has to give into these forms of legal corruption. As a result the quite lengthy delays continue.
The new South Korea mine hunters are 885 ton ships have a non-metallic hull and modifications to their engines and electrical gear to reduce noise and magnetic emissions. This reduces vulnerability to multi-sensor naval mines. Each of these MCMVs has a crew of 77 and is armed with two twin 30mm autocannon for defense. Top speed is 28 kilometers an hour, but the ship tends to operate at much slower speeds.
The most dangerous mines are bottom mines, which lie on the bottom of shallow coastal waters. These mines are effective in waters up to 26 meters (80 feet) deep. To deal with these mines a high-definition sonar seeks out the mine sitting on the ocean floor and then sends down a USVs (unmanned seagoing vehicle, a miniature submarine) down to place an explosive charge then back off as the explosion destroys the bottom mine. The USVs are connected to the mine hunter via a fiber optic cable so the crew can see what is down there and operate the USV. Some USVs are built to be destroyed in the explosion, because they are simpler and cheaper to build that way and are simply considered am underwater “guided missile.”
The Indian Navy currently has only eight elderly and poorly equipped mine hunters. Two have to be retired this year because they are worn out. The navy believes it needs 24 modern mine hunters (16 on the west coast and sight on the east coast) to keep major Indian ports open in war time. The navy began a formal search for a new mine hunter in 2005. The notoriously sluggish Indian military procurement system was slowed even more by the recent anti-corruption measures. It may be this year, or a few more years before the South Korean MCMV deal is finally implemented.