The Navy’s director of Expeditionary Warfare said he expects the office to finish and deliver its comprehensive mine warfare (MIW) plan by the start of the new year.
Marine Maj. Gen. David Coffman told reporters during a roundtable discussion on Wednesday that while he expects his office to finish their draft of this plan, he had no estimate for when the plan would be truly finished.
Coffman said while he does not get to decide when senior leadership signs things, “my personal expectation, success for the progress of increased coherence to mine warfare and so called master plan, we’ll see what Adm Richardson in the end, what he wants to do, where he wants to go with it. But my job, my task is to get the work done between now and New Year’s and basically provide him some options.”
Coffman first announced the mine warfare plan during the NDIA Expeditionary Conference earlier in October. His office aims to provide more coherence and top-down guidance on the Navy’s mine warfare capabilities and developments, particularly looking to the future.
He compared this study to previous mine warfare issues bookending the Cold War. In 1950 the Navy had insufficient mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels to clear thousands of mines in Wonsan, North Korea, preventing an amphibious task force action. Then in the Navy’s 1992 Mine Warfare Plan then-Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Frank Kelso dealt with over 1,000 Iraqi mines during the Gulf War that interfered with plans to launch Marine Corps assaults on Iraqi forces.
The latter review cited Adm. Forrest Sherman, CNO in 1950, who said “when you can’t go where you want to, when you want to, you haven’t got command of the sea. And command of the sea is the rock-bottom function of all our war plans.”
“What we want to offer to the CNO and senior leadership is an opportunity, maybe we can get a little left of boom here and maybe instead of waiting for the next conflict, align to NDS [National Defense Strategy] in terms of who are the competitors,” Coffman said.
He noted the Navy assesses there are over a million mines in the world, and over half of them are held by threats or potential threats.
Coffman said they are hoping the military can learn it should have a little mine warfare capability or even “a little bit more than a little bit, or maybe we can be a little bit further out ahead of it.”
He said he thinks given increasing great power competition the U.S. has to “up our game” in all warfare areas and should not be stopped by adversaries with low cost asymmetric approaches.
“There is no better poster for that than the mine, the weapons that waits, that you can do it cheap and then us as the enemy (the U.S.) has to spend a fortune or lose its people against it.”
Coffman said the value proposition is “not a gazillion dollars” but some improvements in government and oversight with a more purposeful approach can help the Navy deal with mines better. The Navy is trying to strengthen its coherence to the narrative of where it is going in mine warfare.
Coffman plans to deliver the product to CNO Adm. John Richardson and the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, who will then review it and possibly make changes.