The Forgotten Navy: U.S. minesweeper fleet in disrepair as Iran drops more explosives in Strait of Hormuz
The U.S. Navy’s minesweeper fleet is in a serious state of disrepair- and that spells trouble for Americans attempting to confront mine-happy Iranian naval forces.
Frequently moored for maintenance at their respective ports, American minesweepers are often neglected when compared to more modern or used ships, such as Aegis-class guided-missile destroyers.
“We are essentially the ships that the Navy forgot,” said a minesweeper skipper, who spoke to ProPublica on condition of anonymity.
Many of the ships still use a navigation system that runs on Windows 2000, and crews are often ill-trained in their craft, thanks to constant maintenance woes and other issues that keep them on land more often than not.
Commissioned in the late 1980s, the Avenger-class minesweepers were succeeded by the Littoral Combat Ships, which have a well-documented history of failing to measure up as a Naval vessel, let alone a minesweeper.
Only a handful of Avenger minesweepers are on duty, primarily in Bahrain and Japan, respectively. Of those ships, one vessel’s captain implies, only a few are ever truly operational.
Each vessel is staffed by eight officers and 76 enlisted, which, given the small number of ships actually in use in the Persian Gulf, makes identifying the malcontent minesweeper captain a matter of “when,” rather than “if.”
In the words of one officer, the minesweeper fleet is ignored due to the fact that the Navy would rather spend the money on other things.
“It’s not that they don’t want it, it’s that they want other things more,” the officer said. “Every dollar you’re spending [on minesweepers] is a dollar you’re not spending on some cool new submarine.”
Despite this, America’s minesweeper fleet is willing to take on the hundreds of Iranian naval mines in the Persian Gulf- even if the dated detection equipment onboard frequently confuses discarded automobiles and dishwashers for explosives.
“I have to tell them, ‘We always have to be ready,’” one officer said of his crew. “But it is tough to put your people through very hard conditions when you privately think you’re not going to go out.”
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