Saturday, July 14, 2012
The US is deploying a fleet of robotic submarine mine clearers to the Middle East to counter threats by Iran that it will close off the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of world oil supplies travel.
The Sea Fox submersibles, manufactured by German firm Atlas Electronik, come equipped with a TV camera and sonar and are deployed from minesweepers or helicopters. Once in the water they can be controlled via a fiber optic link and are designed to locate mines and explode them using a shaped charge that was originally designed to destroy tanks.
The units are 1.3 meters long and weigh about 43kg, with an operating depth of 300 meters. They are quite sluggish, with a top speed of just six knots, but since mines are usually static or simply drifting this is enough to get them into position for detonation. Some models are unarmed and used solely for scouting out new targets.
One downside of the Sea Fox is that the destruction of target mines also destroys the submersible, and at around $100,000 a unit it’s an expensive way to clear obstacles. While this is not as expensive as seeing a warship or supertanker holed and sunk, with Iran claiming it has thousands of mines ready to deploy the final bill for any conflict could be high.
This article was posted: Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 12:52 am