Defence is considering the acquisition of a sea mining capability that could initially be available from the mid-2020s, according to a Request for Information (RFI) that closed on 25 October.
Project Sea 2000 (Maritime Mining) is designed to enhance the mine warfare capabilities of the ADF and secure Australia’s maritime approaches using modern smart sea mines.
Subject to government direction and approval, a sea mine capability was anticipated for the mid-2020s. An enduring capability was intended in the longer term, Defence stated.
The RFI, which was released on 17 September, is meant to broadly understand the extent of the maritime mining market, the types of mines and methods of deployment from proven maritime mine manufacturers, and getting a rough idea of costs and availability.
It also requests information on the potential for Australian sovereign manufacture, maintenance and sustainment, and supply surety.
Opportunities and constraints include economic order quantities, emerging technologies, and innovation.
The 2020 Force Structure Review referred to new investments in advanced maritime mines, but gave no details of schedule or anticipated cost.
In 2000 under Phase 1A of Joint Project 2045 the ADF selected the BAE Systems Stonefish Mk III maritime mining system to fulfil a requirement for a family of multi-influence bottom sea mines deployable by surface warships, a range of fixed-wing aircraft, and Collins-class submarines.
The project was later cancelled, and greater emphasis was placed on mine countermeasures.
Several of 20 Stonefish exercise variants acquired in the early 1990s and subsequently upgraded are believed to still be in service. These record the acoustic, magnetic and pressure influences of potential targets and indicate when the mine would have been initiated.