REPORT. In the English Channel, French Navy hunters are waging a war on mines

Landslides, fierce. The English Channel regularly displays fragments of history. Two unstable World War II explosives were discovered about two nautical miles (3.6 km) from the great harbor of Cherbourg-en-Cotten (Manche) on the night of Thursday, May 5 to Friday, May 6, 2022. pulled out of their space this ammunition of 600 kg and 130 kg of TNT equivalent, which is still hidden in oblivion. They were washed Eagleone of the French Navy’s mine hunters, 50 meters long, two sonar under his belly, an underwater robot on deck (the famous self-propelled fish, known as PAP), and his squad of high-ranking divers flying on board.

The crew monitors the perimeters of the mine hunters’ bridge. | WESTERN FRANCE

Forty-nine sailors of this great gray prospector are exploring the coast in search of mines, bombs, and remaining shells dropped from water or air. The ship has been involved in a major operation since its launch in 1986: a war against these eternal watchmen from two world wars. The English Channel, from Mont-Saint-Michel to the North Sea, is the most affected French coast, depicts Commander Arnault (surnames kept secret), trained diver. The narrowest part, in the north, in the direction of Dunkirk, suffered the most. » The western facade is carved from Brest and Cherbourg, the Mediterranean – from Toulon. This is provided by three groups of divers. The main goal: to protect the entrance to the ports of registration of nuclear submarines.

The crew witnessed the smashing of a British mine 600 kg of TNT equivalent from the deck of the hunter. This time without shocks. The sheaf of water sometimes reaches several tens of meters in height. | WESTERN FRANCE

Hundreds of thousands of explosive devices in the English Channel

Modeling of a 100-kilogram cylindrical mine on the L’Egl bridge. They cover the seabed of the English Channel and the North Sea. | WESTERN FRANCE

In 2021, 420 devices weighing 11,468 kg of TNT equivalent were disposed of in the English Channel and the North Sea. The explosive is being absorbed by fishermen’s trawls found on the beaches. “It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of devices are still buried in the English Channel.” still exhibits Pasha from “L’Egl”. And time does its job. It shows rusty corpses, electronic and speaker systems, degraded over the years. The devices were designed to engage with the slightest change in pressure under the hulls of ships. Their explosion throws the boat into the air, and when it falls back into the void left by the explosion, the hull shatters. “It’s a destructive weapon, much more than a torpedo fired against a hull.” – describes the former commander of Benoit, now chief of staff of the Cherbourg Naval Staff. The threat is assessed by several criteria. The most obvious: the shadow of the car, which makes it possible to distinguish its type and characteristics.

Two soldiers remove the red flag after the first firecracker. This indicates that a dangerous operation is being performed. | WESTERN FRANCE

The ship intervened in Cherbourg (Manche) before heading to the Cap d’Antifer (Seine-Maritime). “Our missions are also part of the goal of maritime security. Like Le Havre, Cherbourg is an important port. » A car ferry to England passes a few hundred meters from the windows of the gray boat. L’Aigle also crosses pleasure boats, not always aware of the significance of the three black balls hanging on top of its mast. They indicate that the ship is in a demining operation. So we raise the red flag on board. “The symbol is clearer: we are carrying out a dangerous intervention, we must not approach.” – summarizes the former commander of Benoit. As a warning before detonation. The bombs explode. The Eagle shuddered. Kotentin’s seismographs recorded two tremors (1.9 and 2.3 on the Richter scale). Part of the story has just dissipated in the cold waters of the English Channel.

REPORT. In the English Channel, French Navy hunters are waging a war on mines

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