While the exact number, type and manufacturer of the sea mine systems being procured hasn’t been disclosed, it’s understood that the government has budgeted approximately $500 million to 1 billion Australian dollars for the acquisition.
According to Defence, the weapons being brought are smart mines, able to disseminate between civilian vessels and a variety of military targets, allowing a strategic anchorage to be denied to hostile forces, all the while preserving access for aligned vessels.
“Defence is accelerating the acquisition of smart sea mines, which will help to secure sea lines of communication and protect Australia’s maritime approaches. A modern sea mining capability is a significant deterrent to potential aggressors. The Australian Government continues to work to deliver the advanced capabilities Australia needs quickly and effectively.”
There are two main European countries involved in the manufacture and development of smart mines: Italy via Rheinmetall Italia S.p.A and Spain. During Indo-Pacific 2022, Naval News toured Rheinmetall’s stand, where they were displaying their Murena and Asteria sea mines. While the notoriously reclusive company declined to speak on camera, off camera, they briefed editor-in-chief Xavier Vavasseur on the various methods of activation which include electro-optic, pressure and audio.
The full video with Rheinmetall can be found here.
Naval News contributor and prolific writer on Mine Warfare topics, Robin Häggblom (Aka Corporal Fisk) explains the strategic utility of Sea Mines:
“The strategic aspect of minefields comes in a number of different forms. By declaring defensive minefields during a crisis (which may or may not actually have been laid) one can take steps on the deterrence ladder which shows resolve and are very real preparations for the outbreak of armed hostilities, but steps which still are purely defensive and non-escalatory in nature (as the mines won’t hurt anyone as long as the crisis doesn’t escalate to the point where an enemy sails into them). On the other end of the spectrum, finding even individual or a small number of mines in locations where they aren’t expected and where they constitute a threat to shipping – civilian or military – will divert naval resources and affect shipping.”
Australia last attempted to procure sea mines in the early 2000s, with the project to procure BAE Systems Stonefish MK III solution dropped in favour of investment into mine countermeasure (MCM) solutions.
While Defence declined to comment on how the mines will be deployed, aerial, sub-sea and surface assets will no doubt be considered.