A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to engage in minesweeping. Using various mechanisms intended to counter the threat posed by naval mines, waterways are kept clear for safe shipping.[1]

US Navy Admirable-class minesweeper USS Pivot in the Gulf of Mexico for sea trials on 12 July 1944


Although naval warfare has a long history, the earliest known usage of the naval mine dates to the Ming dynasty.[2] Dedicated minesweepers, however, only appear in the historical record, several centuries later, of the Crimean War, where they were deployed by the British. In the Crimean War, minesweepers consisted of British rowboats trailing grapnels to snag the mines. Despite the use of mines in the American Civil War, there are no records of effective minesweeping being used.[3] Officials in the Union Army attempted to create the first minesweeper but were plagued by flawed designs and abandoned the project.[4] Minesweeping technology picked up in the Russo-Japanese War, using aging torpedo boats as minesweepers.

Minesweeper cutting loose moored mines diagram 1952
A minesweeper cutting loose moored mines

In Britain, naval leaders recognized before the outbreak of World War I that the development of sea mines was a threat to the nation's shipping and began efforts to counter the threat. Sir Arthur Wilson noted the real threat of the time was blockade aided by mines and not invasion. The function of the fishing fleet's trawlers with their trawl gear was recognized as having a natural connection with mine clearance and, among other things, trawlers were used to keep the English Channel clear of mines.[5] A Trawler Section of the Royal Navy Reserve became the predecessor of the mine sweeping forces with specially designed ships and equipment to follow. These reserve Trawler Section fishermen and their trawlers were activated, supplied with mine gear, rifles, uniforms and pay as the first minesweepers.[6] The dedicated, purpose-built minesweeper first appeared during World War I with the Flower-class minesweeping sloop. By the end of the War, naval mine technology had grown beyond the ability of minesweepers to detect and remove.[3]

Minesweeping made significant advancements during World War II. Combatant nations quickly adapted ships to the task of minesweeping, including Australia's 35 civilian ships that became Auxiliary Minesweepers.[7] Both Allied and Axis countries made heavy use of minesweepers throughout the war. Historian Gordon Williamson wrote that "Germany's minesweepers alone formed a massive proportion of its total strength, and are very much the unsung heroes of the Kriegsmarine."[8] Naval mines remained a threat even after the war ended, and minesweeping crews were still active after VJ Day.[9] After the Second World War, allied countries worked on new classes of minesweepers ranging from 120-ton designs for clearing estuaries to 735-ton oceangoing vessels.[10] The United States Navy even used specialized Mechanized Landing Craft to sweep shallow harbors in and around North Korea.[11]

As of June 2012, the U.S. Navy had four minesweepers deployed to the Persian Gulf to address regional instabilities.[12][13] The Royal Navy also has four minesweepers stationed in the Persian Gulf as part of the 9th Mine Counter-Measures Squadron.

Operation and requirements

M1098 Siegburg
Siegburg, a modern Ensdorf-class minesweeper of the German Navy

Minesweepers are equipped with mechanical or electrical devices, known as "sweeps", for disabling mines. The modern minesweeper is designed to reduce the chances of it detonating mines itself; it is soundproofed to reduce its acoustic signature and often constructed using wood, fiberglass or non-ferrous metal, or is degaussed to reduce its magnetic signature.[14]

Mechanical sweeps are devices designed to cut the anchoring cables of moored mines, and preferably attach a tag to help the subsequent localization and neutralization. They are towed behind the minesweeper, and use a towed body (e.g. oropesa, paravane) to maintain the sweep at the desired depth and position. Influence sweeps are equipment, often towed, that emulate a particular ship signature, thereby causing a mine to detonate. The most common such sweeps are magnetic and acoustic generators.

There are two modes of operating an influence sweep: MSM (mine setting mode) and TSM (target simulation mode or target setting mode). MSM sweeping is founded on intelligence on a given type of mine, and produces the output required for detonation of this mine. If such intelligence is unavailable, the TSM sweeping instead reproduces the influence of the friendly ship that is about to transit the area. TSM sweeping thus clears mines directed at this ship without knowledge of the mines. However, mines directed at other ships might remain.[15] [16]

The minesweeper differs from a minehunter; the minehunter actively detects and neutralises individual mines. Minesweepers are in many cases complementary to minehunters, depending on the operation and the environment; a minesweeper is, in particular, better suited to clearing open-water areas with large numbers of mines. Both kinds of ships are collectively called mine countermeasure vessels (MCMV), a term also applied to a vessel that combines both roles. The first such ship was HMS Wilton, also the first warship to be constructed from fiberglass.

Notable minesweepers

See also

Further reading

  • Bruhn, David D.. (2006). Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The U.S. Navy's Ocean Minesweepers, 1953-1994. Heritage Books. ISBN 978-0-7884-3260-6.
  • Bruhn, David D.. (2009). Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The U.S. Navy's Coastal and Motor Minesweepers, 1941-1953. Heritage Books. ISBN 0-7884-4909-5.
  • Lund & Ludlam. (1978) Out Sweeps! The Story of the Minesweepers in World War II. Foulsham/New English Library ISBN 0450044688. Minesweeping by the wartime Royal Navy.


  1. ^ "minesweeper". The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012. ISBN 9780199891580.
  2. ^ "Huolongjing". Blogspot. Chinese Literature. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b Hattendorf, John B. (2007). The Oxford encyclopedia of maritime history. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 9780195130751.
  4. ^ Heidler, David S.; Jeanne T. Heidler, eds. (2002). "Devils". Encyclopedia of the American Civil War : a political, social, and military history. New York: Norton. p. 595. ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
  5. ^ Bacon, Sir Reginald (1919). The Dover patrol 1915-1917. G. D. Doran co. p. 146.
  6. ^ Hawkins, Nigel (2003). The Starvation Blockades: Naval Blockades of WW1. U.S. Naval Institute Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 0-85052-908-5.)
  7. ^ Dennis, Peter; Jeffrey Grey; Ewan Morris; Robin Prior; Jean Bou (2012). "Auxiliary Minesweepers". The Oxford companion to Australian military history (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195517842.
  8. ^ Williamson, Gordon (2012). Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces. Osprey Publishing. p. 48. ISBN 9781782000006.
  9. ^ Grant, Roderick M., ed. (January 1946). "Sweeping up sudden death". Popular Mechanics. 85 (1): 28–34. ISSN 0032-4558.
  10. ^ Jane's (1997). "Mine Countermeasures". Jane's War at Sea 1897-1997: 100 Years of Jane's Fighting Ships (100 ed.). HarperCollins. p. 224. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  11. ^ Dempewolff, Richard F. (February 1952). Grant, Roderick M. (ed.). "Mother of the minesweepers". Popular Science. Hearst Magazines. 97 (2): 97–104. ISSN 0032-4558. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  12. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (March 15, 2012). "U.S. doubling minesweepers in Persian Gulf". NavyTimes. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Four U.S. Navy minesweepers arrive in the Gulf". Reuters. 25 June 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Minesweepers". How it works : science and technology (3rd ed.). New York: Marshall Cavendish. 2003. p. 2633. ISBN 0-7614-7333-5. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  15. ^ Dick Linssen and Åshild Bergh (2000): "Target Simulation Mode Mine Sweeping - SWEEPOP", pamphlet, 4 pages, TNO Physics and Electronics Laboratory, The Netherlands.
  16. ^ P A Brodtkorb, B-E Marthinsen, M Nakjem, R Fardal (2005): "Royal Norwegian Navy (RNoN) introduces new mine sweeping capabilities", Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) Europe, conf. proc., Amsterdam.

External links

Admirable-class minesweeper

The Admirable class was one of the largest and most successful classes of minesweepers ordered by the United States Navy during World War II. Typically, minesweepers detected and removed naval mines before the rest of the fleet arrived, thereby ensuring safe passage for the larger ships. They were also charged with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) duties with rear-mounted depth charge racks and a forward-firing Hedgehog antisubmarine mortar. Their job was essential to the safety and success of U.S. naval operations during World War II and the Korean War. These minesweepers were also employed as patrol vessel and convoy escorts.

As a part of Project Hula – a secret 1945 program that transferred 149 U.S. Navy ships to the Soviet Navy at Cold Bay, Territory of Alaska, in anticipation of the Soviet Union joining the war against Japan – the U.S. Navy transferred 24 Admirable-class minesweepers to the Soviet Navy between May and August 1945. At least some of them saw action in the Soviet offensive against Japanese forces in Northeast Asia in August 1945. The Soviet Union never returned them to the United States.After World War II, the United States transferred Admirable-class minesweepers to the Republic of China Navy, the Republic of China's Chinese Maritime Customs Service, the Republic of Korea Navy, the Republic of Vietnam Navy, and the Dominican, Mexican, Myanmar, and Philippine navies.

USS Hazard survives as a museum ship on dry land in Omaha, Nebraska. USS Inaugural was a museum ship on the Mississippi River in St. Louis, until she sank during the Great Flood of 1993.

USS Scuffle was scuttled off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico in 1999. It is now a popular site for scuba diving.

Algerine-class minesweeper

The Algerine-class minesweeper was a large group of minesweepers built for the Royal Navy (RN) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) during the Second World War. 110 ships of the class were launched between 1942 and 1944.

Auk-class minesweeper

The Auk class were Allied minesweepers serving with the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy during the Second World War. In total, there were 95 Auks built.

Coastal minesweeper

Coastal minesweeper is a term used by the United States Navy to indicate a minesweeper intended for coastal use as opposed to participating in fleet operations at sea.

Because of its small size—usually less than 100 feet in length—and construction—wood as opposed to steel—and slow speed—usually about 9 or 10 knots—the coastal minesweeper was considered too fragile and slow to operate on the high seas with the fleet.

Minesweeping, in conjunction with fleet activities, was usually relegated to the diesel-driven steel-hulled AM-type minesweepers, later to be replaced by the wood-hulled MSO-type minesweeper with aluminum engines.

Destroyer minesweeper

"Destroyer minesweeper" was a designation given by the United States Navy to a series of destroyers that were converted into high-speed ocean-going minesweepers for service during World War II. The hull classification symbol for this type of ship was "DMS." Forty-two ships were so converted, beginning with USS Dorsey (DD-117), converted to DMS-1 in late 1940, and ending with USS Earle (DD-635), converted to DMS-42 in mid 1945. The type is now obsolete, its function having been taken over by purpose-built ships, designated as "minesweeper (high-speed)" with the hull classification symbol MMD.

The original ships were obsolete four-stack destroyers built during and after World War I with usable power plants; they were nicknamed "four-pipers" on account of having the four stacks. The number 4 boiler, fourth stack, and torpedo tubes were removed, depth charge racks repositioned forward from the stern and angled outboard, and the stern modified to support sweep gear: davits, winch, paravanes, and kites. Two 60-kilowatt turbo-generators replaced the three original 25-kilowatt generators to improve capability for sweeping magnetic and acoustic mines.

Conversion of the initial seventeen ships was completed in October and November of 1940, and included eight Wickes-class and nine Clemson-class destroyers. An additional Wickes-class destroyer was converted in 1941. The 24 later ships in the series were Gleaves-class destroyers built during the war.

The fictional USS Caine, DMS-22 , from Herman Wouk's novel The Caine Mutiny, is sketched within the novel itself. Although showing only two smokestacks, the sketch illustrates a flush deck and a galley deckhouse similar to the converted Wickes Class destroyer/minesweepers which actually had three smokestacks.

EML Kalev (M414)

EML Kalev (M414) was a Frauenlob-class minesweeper of the Estonian Navy, which belonged to the Mineships Division.

EML Olev

EML Olev (M415) is a Frauenlob-class minelayer of the Estonian Navy Mineships Division.

EML Sulev (M312)

EML Sulev (M312) was a Lindau-class minehunter of the Estonian Navy Mineships Division.

EML Wambola (M311)

EML Wambola (M311) is a Lindau-class minehunter of the Estonian Navy Mineships Division, formerly the German warship Cuxhaven. The commanding officer of the vessel is Captain Jaanus Antson.

The minehunter Wambola is the first vessel of the Estonian Navy Mineships Division and also the first modernized Lindau-class minehunter. A black keel on a silver background with a golden battle-axe is on the coat of arms of the vessel. The battle-axe is a weapon used by the ancient Estonians which also symbolizes their fighting spirit and strength. The ships motto is the Latin "Ad unquem" which is in English "Onto the nail head". The coat of arms was designed by Priit Herodes. In 2000 a cooperation contract was signed between the Pärnu city council and the minehunter Wambola which gave the vessel a right to wear the Pärnu town coat of arms and to introduce the city in all foreign harbors across the world.

Halcyon-class minesweeper

The Halcyon class was a class of 21 oil-fired minesweepers (officially, "fleet minesweeping sloops") built for the British Royal Navy between 1933 and 1939. They were given traditional small ship names used historically by the Royal Navy and served during World War II.

Ham-class minesweeper

The Ham class was a class of inshore minesweepers (IMS), known as the Type 1, of the British Royal Navy. The class was designed to operate in the shallow water of rivers and estuaries. All of the ships in the class are named for British place names that end with -"ham". The parent firm that was responsible for supervising construction was Samuel White of Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Unlike traditional minesweepers, they were not equipped for sweeping moored or magnetic mines. Their work was to locate individual mines and neutralise them. This was a then-new role, and the class was configured for working in the shallow water of rivers, estuaries and shipping channels.

The class consisted of 93 ships, launched between 1954 and 1959. HMS Inglesham was the first. They were built in three slightly different sub-groups, the first sub-group, the 26-group, is distinguished by pennant numbers 26xx, and the second and third sub-groups, the 27-group, are distinguished by pennant numbers 27xx. The 26-group was of wood and non-ferrous metal composite construction and the 27-group was of all-wood construction. The third sub-group is distinguished by a prominent rubbing strake around the hull and slightly larger dimensions.

The vessels displaced 164 long tons (167 t) fully laden and were armed with one 40 mm Bofors or 20 mm Oerlikon gun. They were 32.5 metres (107 ft) long overall with a 6.4-metre (21 ft) beam. The construction was of wood to minimise the magnetic signature. The crew complement was 15, rising to 22 in wartime.

The engines of this class were Paxman diesels, some of which were built under licence by Ruston and Hornsby of Lincoln. Each vessel had: two 12YHAXM (intercooled) for main propulsion, rated at 550 bhp (410 kW) at 1,000 rpm, plus one 12YHAZ for pulse generation. Maximum speed was 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) dropping to 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph) when mine sweeping.

The class shared the same basic hull as the Ley-class minehunter and the Echo-class inshore survey craft.

Hawk-class minesweeper

The Hawk-class were a minesweeper class of the United States Navy during World War II.

All three vessels were originally fishing trawlers acquired by requisition purchase from the General Sea Foods Corp. of Boston. They patrolled off the New England coast from 1942, until they were decommissioned in 1944.

Hunt-class minesweeper (1916)

The Hunt-class minesweeper was a class of minesweeping sloop built between 1916 and 1919 for the Royal Navy. They were built in two discrete groups, the earlier Belvoir group designed by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company and the subsequent (and slightly larger) Aberdare group designed by the Admiralty. They were classed as Fleet Minesweeping Sloops, that is ships intended to clear open water. The Belvoir group were named after British fox hunts. Those of the Aberdare group were originally named after coastal towns, watering places and fishing ports, some of which happened to be hunts by coincidence. However, all were soon renamed after inland locations to prevent confusion caused by the misunderstanding of signals and orders.

LKL Sūduvis (M52)

LKL Sūduvis (M52) is a minehunter of the Lithuanian Naval Force. Built in West Germany in 1957 as Koblenz (M1071), a Lindau-class (or Type 320) minesweeper for the German Navy, she was upgraded to a Type 331 minehunter in the 1970s. Germany donated Koblenz to the Lithuanian Naval Force in 1999. The ship, renamed Sūduvis, formed the nucleus of the Lithuanian Naval Force's Squadron of Mine-hunters, which was established on 22 June 1999. The squadron was augmented in 2001 with the similar donation of sister ship Marburg, which became Kursis (M51).

Lapwing-class minesweeper

The Lapwing-class minesweeper, often called the Bird class, was an early "AM-type" oceangoing minesweeper of the United States Navy. Seven ships of the class were commissioned during World War I, and served well into the 1950s. A number were refitted to serve as ocean-going tugs, salvage vessels, seaplane tenders, or submarine rescue ships.

Microsoft Minesweeper

Microsoft Minesweeper (formerly Minesweeper) is a minesweeper computer game created by Curt Johnson, originally for OS/2, and ported to Microsoft Windows by Robert Donner, both Microsoft employees at the time. First officially released as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack 1 in 1990, it was included in the standard install of Windows 3.1 in 1992, replacing Reversi from Windows 3.0. Microsoft Minesweeper has been included without a major change in all subsequent Windows releases until Windows Vista, at which time an updated version by Oberon Media replaced it. In Windows 8 and later the game is not included, but Microsoft Studios published an updated version of it, developed by Arkadium, on Windows Store.

Minesweeper (video game)

Minesweeper is a single-player puzzle computer game. The objective of the game is to clear a rectangular board containing hidden "mines" or bombs without detonating any of them, with help from clues about the number of neighboring mines in each field. The game originates from the 1960s, and has been written for many computing platforms in use today. It has many variations and offshoots.

Raven-class minesweeper

The Raven class was a class of two World War II-era U.S. Navy minesweepers. They were succeeded by the Auk class which were based on the Ravens.

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