I was amazed to read {"Mines Put Gulf Escort in Question," July 26} that the commander of the flotilla the Navy has sent to escort Kuwaiti supertankers through the Persian Gulf knew (and presumably told his superiors at the Pentagon) that he had virtually no capability to defend against underwater mines but went ahead with the mission anyway. And now that one has damaged a Kuwaiti supertanker, he doesn't want to return to those waters without mine-sweeping assistance.

Now, I'm no naval expert, but if I had been in charge of escorting ships through waters that might be hostile, I think I'd have remembered to bring along some mine sweepers or antisubmarine helicopters. Can't anyone in this administration get it right the first time?

KARL M. KNECHT Gaithersburg

I recall an article published in The Post on June 27 which stated that Pentagon officials were aware of the existence of underwater mines and that the Joint Chiefs were already debating whether or not they would recommend launching a preemptive strike against Soviet-supplied, Iranian-based anti-ship missiles should they become operative. If the purpose of the escort was to provide safe passage for the Kuwaiti tankers, as the U.S. public was told, why wasn't U.S. mine-sweeping equipment deployed with the convoy?

If we should go so far as to provide protection to tankers of another nation, shouldn't we at least provide the utmost in protection to our own fleet prior to engaging in a life-threatening situation? The danger had already been proven to exist. Our fleet should have had this protective equipment at its disposal. If cost was an issue, how much is saved by deploying the equipment at this late a date? Or was this allowed to happen in order to provide justification for our presence in the Gulf? It seems to me that endangerment to human life should never be used as a means to prove a point in U.S. foreign policy. EILEEN E. KELLEHER Fairfax