The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, reports,
“Capt. Mike Egan, branch head for mine warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, speaking May 24 in Monterey, California, at the 2022 International Mine Warfare Technology Symposium of the Mine Warfare Association, said the MCM mission package is on track to achieve initial operational capability in the fall of 2022 and the Navy plans to procure a total of 24 packages.
“The Navy plans to equip 15 Independence-class littoral combat ships with the MCM mission package, which will leave an additional nine mission packages for use elsewhere.”
USN mine countermeasures ships are being decommissioned. Soon these mission packages will be the only US naval mine clearance assets. If a US port is mined, how will the mines be cleared?
Currently all Independence class LCS are based in San Diego. With the decision to shed all but six of the Freedom class LCS, none of which will be MCM capable, it is likely at least some Independence class will be based on the East Coast, presumably at Jacksonville. Aside from these 15 LCS mounted systems, it also appears the Navy will mount one on each of the five Lewis-B. Puller-class “Expeditionary Sea Bases” (ESB). That still leaves four MCM mission packages unclaimed.
LCSs based in San Diego and Jacksonville are still a long way from many US ports. In addition to transit time, the LCSs may be deployed or may not be available on short notice. The ESBs are all expected to be forward deployed, with one probably being assigned to each Geographic Combatant Commanders with the exception of Northern Command, e.g. Africa Command, Central Command, European Command, Indo-Pacific Command, and Southern Command, so they are unlikely to be available.
These four packages could provide mine clearance for US ports. One East Coast (perhaps Norfolk area), one West Coast (Seattle?), one Hawaii (Pearl?), and one in Alaska (Anchorage?) might be a logical distribution.
We know the disasterous effect of even short term port closures. Time is critical. The mission packages should be able to be deployed by air to the port(s) of interest. Some elements of the packages could certainly operate from shore. In many cases Coast Guard bases and air stations would be logical locations for temporary relocation of Navy assets. It is not unlikely Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft might be tasked with providing the air lift.
Some elements of the mission package, like the Unmanned Underwater Vehicles are still likely to require operation from floating units. Buoy Tenders would likely be able to fill this role. It might be worthwhile exercising this option, perhaps at RIMPAC.