Bulgarian Navy Has Destroyed 4 Floating Mines in Bulgarian Waters since War in Ukraine Began

Since the start of the military conflict in Ukraine, the Bulgarian Navy has destroyed four floating mines in Bulgarian waters, the Commander of the Bulgarian Navy, Rear Admiral Kiril Mihaylov, told journalists here on Thursday.

The Navy has responded immediately to each of over 60 alerts about floating objects received so far, sending ships and helicopters to handle the situation, the admiral explained. In his words, a large part of the alerts have been actually about debris of surface-to-air missiles, starter engines and even garbage bags, but the seamen have responded nevertheless.

“We are also constantly monitoring atmospheric conditions in the northwestern section of the Black Sea,” Mihaylov added. He specified that simulations have shown that when there are high waves and strong wind in that part, dislodged mines take 10 to 12 days to drift in sea currents to the Bulgarian coast. “When these conditions are in place, the seaspace is checked preventively so as to detect potential mines as quickly as possible,” the Navy Commander pointed out.

The sea mines that have reached the Bulgarian coast from the conflict zone are 53 cm in diameter, Mihaylov added. When the sea is rough, they are exceedingly difficult to find, using mainly visual sighting and acoustic localization.

Until the start of the military conflict in Ukraine, the standing procedure for handling a floating mine was to approach it by boat and attach explosives for its safe disposal, the Admiral said. Now divers are used for this purpose. They approach the mine, fix the charge and swim away. All mines detected in Bulgaria’s seaspace have been destroyed in this way, Mihaylov added. He specified that this method exposes to a risk a single person rather than an entire boat crew.

Bomb disposal robots that are employed onshore are unusable at sea, everything there requires human intervention, the Navy Commander explained. No protective equipment for divers has been designed yet, especially considering that sea mines are armed with a very large quantity of explosives: 20 kg for even the small ones, and usually over 100 kg, he added.

Rear Admiral Mihaylov commented on the Black Sea situation at a news briefing on a specialized diver exercise codenamed “Triton 23”. The exercise is hosted by Bulgaria and also involves the navies of Romania, Turkiye, Italy and the US. Bulgaria is represented by a deep diver unit, three diver units for underwater blasting, the rescue ship Proteo, two boats and three patrol boats. One of the highlights of “Triton 23” is surveillance for drifting mines and limpet mines attached to ships’ hulls.

Journalists were shown state-of-the-art diver equipment, and divers demonstrated a deep cage dive. Commander Kalin Karakolev, who is a commanding officer of a naval unit, explained that this equipment is used for depths exceeding 60 metres. In his words, this year Bulgarian divers have reached depths of up to 72 metres in experimental dives, whereas the Proteo can handle diving depths of up to 100 metres. Cage diving is used for emergency rescue, say, of a submarine crew, Commander Karakolev added.