In the shallow, crowded waters of the Persian Gulf, mines pose a sobering challenge. When the U.S. Navy has faced a massive mine threat there in the past, it has failed to protect even its own ships.
Now, both Iran and the United States seem poised to fight it out again. Iran has acquired a stockpile of 2,000 to 3,000 mines, including "smart'' Chinese-built mines that could track and target U.S. warships, according to a report by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.The 660-pound warhead carried by one such mine could puncture the hull of a U.S. aircraft carrier, the report says.
But the Navy says this time it's prepared for a mine war, with a four-ship fleet of high-tech counter-mine vessels patrolling the Gulf, along with airborne sensors, robot submarines, a squadron of mine-hunting dolphins and sea lions on standby -- and two decades worth of operational experience off the coast of Iran.