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The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has made incremental progress in its mine countermeasures (MCM) program in recent years. The PLAN’s current inventory of about 60 MCM ships and craft includes classes of minehunters and minesweepers mostly commissioned in the past decade as well as unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and remotely operated vehicles with demonstrated explosive neutralization capability. Despite the addition of these advanced MCM platforms and equipment, experts affiliated with the PLAN and China’s mine warfare development laboratory have serious reservations about the PLAN’s current ability to respond to the full range of likely threats posed by naval mines in future contingencies. The PLAN’s MCM forces are currently organized for operations near China’s coastline, but writings by Chinese military and civilian experts contend that to safeguard Beijing’s expanding overseas interests, the PLAN must develop MCM capabilities for operations far beyond the First Island Chain. PLAN and civilian mine warfare experts have proposed various solutions for offsetting perceived shortcomings in the PLAN’s MCM program, including the development of autonomous USVs and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), deployment of modularized MCM mission packages on ships such as destroyers and frigates, and mobilization of civilian assets such as ships and helicopters in support of MCM operations. Although there appears to have been little to no adoption of these proposed solutions to date, the PLAN recognizes MCM as one of its biggest challenges, and one can expect the PLAN to continue making measured progress in its MCM program in the years ahead.
China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S Naval War College
Newport, Rhode Island
China, China Maritime Studies Institute, CMSI, People’s Liberation Army, PLAN, mines, mine countermeasures, MCM, UUV, unmanned underwater vehicles
Waidelich, Brian and Pollitt, George, "China Maritime Report No. 29: PLAN Mine Countermeasures: Platforms, Training, and Civil-Military Integration" (2023). CMSI China Maritime Reports. 29.