Protecting strategic waterways through smart, safe minelaying24 February 2021
Smart technology has paved the way over the years to provide a digital interface, automated learning to make our lives easier.
Smart technology has paved the way over the years to provide a digital interface, automated learning to make our lives easier. In Finland, where the coastline waterways have narrow paths, they have successfully built and refined for many years the art of naval minelaying. This mine laying technology being developed by DA-Group has been key to protecting its territorial paths from outside threats. Minelaying has often been deemed to be deadly security threat, but due to advancements in technology, this has now meant that new modern influence mines, can safely detect enemies from potential threats, whilst creating a safe path for other vessels.
DSSI speak with Kristian Tornivaara, CBO Defence & Aerospace, DA-Group in Finland, how mine countermeasures under the sea are evolving through smart technologies, and keeping abreast security threats that threaten regional seas in territorial disputes, and how this technology can be utilised by navies and security agencies to protect its citizens and regional coastlines.
Hello Kristian, thank you for joining us here at Defence and Security Systems International, you are well recognised for your work within the area of mine laying and naval mine technologies, could you briefly give us a bit of background on DA-Group?
Thank you very much, I appreciate this opportunity and happy to share our thoughts on how modern naval minelaying is going to look like, and what modern technology can provide. DA-Group is a provider of advanced electronics and systems for extremely demanding conditions from seabed to space. We serve, for example, on civil sites, public transportation with security and safety & Information systems. And then we provide sensors and different kinds of signal and power distribution systems to satellites, which are sent to outer space. Then we have systems and subsystems for defense purposes. And in all of these fields we also support other industries by manufacturing, designing and testing devices and systems for them.
One of the things that we’re seeing at the moment is naval initiatives developing from near peer adversaries, providing a new threat to our navies, submarines and surface warship vessels, which pose regional risk in areas of conflicts. How do you currently foresee the role of naval minelaying in this current climate?
I see that as a very efficient, safe and affordable weapon system for defending your territory, it's an excellent choice for anti-access and area denial. You can distract or guide the movements to locations where you can more safely control what is happening around you. This applies to both submarines and surface threats. Mines, naval mines, and minelaying, has not been that actively developed by many countries. I think the main reason for this is the political view that mines are dangerous and uncontrollable weapons, and they pose a threat to civilians. This however is not really the case with modern influence mines, which are extremely safe.
They will detect exactly the targets, recognize the targets, and with modern target detection systems you can really identify the vessel individually, you can make the algorithms to make choices, so for example commercial vessels, you never get an edge on those, you can actually have the system programmed in that way that it's really safe to go over a mine with your own vessels, and it is detonating only on hostile targets. In addition, these kind of bottom mines, they don't creep, you know exactly where they are, they will be safe even after a period of time that it's been set for them to operate, and then you can actually very safely even pick them up.
I think this is the main reason, with uncertainty about safety, why mines have not been used. This situation has been very different here in Finland, we have a long coastline, archipelago with narrow fairways, and of course the threat scenario here has been such that you need smart affordable ways to defend our sea lines of communications. In Finland, we have been developing throughout all these decades naval mines, mine laying capabilities, so I would say that we are decades ahead of other countries when it comes to developing modern naval minelaying capabilities.
Could you explain a little bit about the role of modern influence mines within current naval operations and how security agencies can become stronger with this type of technology?
I can't go into real details about the operations and how they are used, what I said in the beginning is that this is an excellent weapon system choice for anti-access and area denial, so you can really control where you want the traffic to be, and which areas and fairways you want to block, and you can do this very efficiently, affordably and in a fast way. One of the things which I also think is important operationally, if that this weapon system is something that you can deploy already when we are in like a grey area, so you don't need to be in the hot war, you can already deploy this and give information that there is a mine field here, and that will relax the situation and lower the threat.
In the future, when looking at near peer adversaries and the type of technology they are developing, the ability for an enemy or an adversary to develop some sort of underwater mine clearance system, either through a robot, or an autonomous system, is perhaps being developed. How do you foresee the different type of equipment that is being developed by enemy states with this regard, and how it affects the role of modern influence mines?
Yeah this is a really good and interesting question, of course we are also working on that side, as we know the technology on the phenomenon related to it, and this is really where globally a lot of effort is put in, when we are talking about naval mine warfare, we're typically talking about countermine activities, mine hunting and mine sweeping capability. It is true that you can detect the mines, it is true that you can detonate or sweep the mines. However, it is very time consuming, dangerous and costly operation to do it.
You first have to locate the mines, you cannot have much traffic for safety or security there, and then you have to somehow detonate or other way like demilitarising the mine or threat.
Our technology enables us to always recognize this, so we will recognize diver, we will recognize unmanned vehicles or robots, or underwater drones, we can decide whether we want to detonate on those or not, it's up to the user to check this from the detonation algorithms, the cost of the diver or underwater unmanned vehicles diving, is much much higher than one single mine, It'll always takes a lot of personnel to have these or manage these kind of operations.
So it's again, a very efficient way to guide and control what's happening in your environment, if you are laying the mines yourself. And when it comes to these sweeping technologies, we have for example a pressure sensor as part of our sensor package, and even though you can create the acoustic or magnetic signatures, you cannot really create the pressure signature by any other means than having a real vessel there, so signature sweeping is not really effective against modern mines. Also, mine hunting the detection where the mines are, is really hard, if you think about modern mines, because they are anti-magnetic, they give the same kind of gain from sonar, so you need high technology to be able to do that, but of course that technology is available but it is time consuming and dangerous to do it.