Minemen Around the World

ESTONIA  and the BALTIC


A colorful Mine Warfare (MIW) placard found in an abandoned Soviet mineshop in Tallinn, Estonia

Former Soviet Naval Mine Facilities

When the Russian Navy abandoned their former Soviet Mine Depot on Naissaar Island, in the Gulf of Finland, as well as smaller mine facilities nearby in Estonia, they demilitarized the mines they left behind. In other words, they removed the explosives and components from all the mine cases. But they did leave most of the old, obsolete and rusted hardware in place. Several NATO navies quickly visited with limited success. But, when the U. S. Navy sent mine-savvy sailors and civilians to the same locations they recovered some useful information.

Naissaar Island, the largest (18.6 sq. km) of the off-shore islands, is located about 45-minutes (north) by boat from Tallinn, Estonia. On the island, an operable railway system extends from the crumbling concrete pier to most of the storage buildings partially hidden in a coniferous forest. Hundreds of old, moored ASW-mine cases (AGSB & UKSM) were left behind. It's unknown how many serviceable mines were removed by the Russians. Useful information discovered on Naissaar Island was limited, however, the size of the former mine depot was surprising. We saw evidence of theft/salvaging of precious metals and electronic components from a few mine firing mechanisms. The following web-site has additional details about the island and great pictures

One of our Estonian escorts was a former Soviet naval officer who proved to be an amiable and knowledgeable host. A Maritime Museum (open to the public) had dozens of old Soviet-era bottom and moored mine cases (inert/empty and without components) on display. In addition, there was some obsolete, Soviet MCM equipment displayed.

When we visited an Estonian naval base we were amazed at the quantity and quality of materials that the Russians had left behind in a former mine shop. An explosive limits placard on the wall indicated how many of each mine type could be in the shop at any one time. Student notebooks from a Soviet mine school were carelessly scattered about on the floor. These had to be fully translated before their true worth could be judged. Several wooden boxes were filled with materials gathered from the old mine shop, that had once been used as an auto and motorcycle repair shop.
 


The rugged, air-laid UDM mine (1,000-kg) designed to be planted without a parachute from low-altitude and at high-speed. These features/capabilities were desirable by the Soviets to ensure secrecy and accuracy of planting. The nose of the UDM was 4-inches thick of layered steel with an additional 5 or 6 metal strips welded to the slanted nose. An export version of this mine, designated UDM-E, is in many foreign stockpiles around the world.

 


The UDM-500 air-laid mine. Many hundreds of old, moored contact mine casings were burned in order to remove the explosives. These look like MKB-3's.
 


Moored contact ASW-mine cases (AGSB & UKSM)

 


A small engine on the narrow-gauge railway carried us inland on Naissaar Isalnd.

 


The welcoming committee on Naissaar Island; note the logs, there were thousands of
them  on the old crumbling pier. The Soviets were noted for producing low quality concrete.

 


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Derick S. Hartshorn - 2009-present
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