Australia to fast-track purchase of ‘smart sea mines’ to protect maritime routes

Photo: ASPI

Australia will accelerate plans to buy advanced sea mines to protect its maritime routes and ports from “potential aggressors” amid China’s growing influence in the Pacific region.

The so-called smart sea mines are designed to differentiate between military targets and other types of ships, a defence department spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement said Australia was “accelerating the acquisition of smart sea mines, which will help to secure sea lines of communication and protect Australia’s maritime approaches”.

“A modern sea mining capability is a significant deterrent to potential aggressors,” it said.

Though the defence department did not specify any further details, a report by The Sydney Morning Herald said Canberra would spend up to $1 billion (US$698 million) to procure the high-tech underwater weapons.

The federal government will soon announce a contract to buy “a substantial number” of sea mines from a European weapons supplier, the report said, citing unidentified defence industry sources.

Speaking to the ABC, Sam Roggeveen, the head of the International Security programme at the Lowy Institute, said the mines would give Australia the ability to strategically block maritime passages and ports.

Roggeveen said Australia had a comparatively small armoury, but mine warfare had been neglected by even larger, more advanced navies.

“I think simply because it is rather unglamorous,” he said. 

“But it is a highly effective and cost-effective way to make certain maritime passages basically impassable.

“Or, at the very least, if you want to get through them, it is going to cost you a great deal of effort and time.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told ABC he would not “pre-empt those national security issues”.

“What we need is to make sure we have the best possible defences,” he said.

“So, we have looked at missile defence, we’re looking at cybersecurity, we’re looking at all of these issues.”