Stretch along Israel’s coastal strip; one hundred and ninety kilometers of azure water extend tranquilly to the horizon. However, a dangerous threat lurks uncer the surface: naval mines. Weapons that are cheap, effective, easy to operate, and in wartime, could become the country’s biggest strategic threat.
According to Western intelligence reports, a number of Arab states and terrorist organizations have acquired naval mines from ex-Soviet bloc countries. A senior Israeli navy officer says that many of these mines are among the most sophisticated types and have already found their way into the arsenals of countries hostile to Israel; including Iran, Syria, and Libya. Terrorist organizations, too, have obtained naval mines.
This situation demands Israel’s immediate attention. There are indications that the Iranian fleet possesses contact, magnetic, acoustic, and remote-controlled mines, all supplied by Russia, China, and North Korea, or manufactured in state-owned factories. Valeri Zelichonok, a former admiral of the Soviet fleet, expert on naval mines, and today, an Israeli citizen says, “Naval mines have been used in every area of naval warfare since their inception. They’ve destroyed countless warships, submarines, transport vessels and passenger liners.
Naval mines, especially when used in conjunction with the air force, can confine entire fleets to their bases, thereby effectively neutralizing them. “With the widespread use of naval mines during World War II, military planners realized that naval mines could destroy dams and bridges; today they’re deployed against subs armed with combat-ready ballistic and cruise missiles, making it a battle of mines against missiles. “Another advantage is that the mines can be deployed anywhere and by any device.
Their low cost makes them an attractive weapon in general, and in guerilla warfare in particular. “Currently, no countermeasure exists that can eliminate or even reduce the threat to manageable proportions. In a showdown between naval mines and counter weapon systems, the naval mines come out on top".
The Strategic Danger
Zelichonok believes that given the proven ability of naval mines and Israel’s geographical position—facing an enormous maritime war theater—its failure to acquire naval mines is an inexcusable strategic deficiency. According to the retired admiral, “Israel must take steps to stock its arsenal with naval mines. The economy’s absolute dependency on seaborne transportation renders it more vulnerable to attack by naval mines than most industrialized states . . . In the event of war this vulnerability to an effective and low-priced weapon will be a strategic liability of the greatest magnitude.