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Canadian sailors with a mine aboard the minelayer H.M.C.S. Sankaty off Halifax, Nova Scotia during World War II.

Minelaying is the act of deploying explosive mines. Historically this has been carried out by ships, submarines and aircraft. Additionally, since World War I the term minelayer refers specifically to a naval ship used for deploying sea mines.[1]Mine Planting[2] was the term used for installing controlled mines at predetermined positions in connection with coastal fortifications or harbor approaches that would be detonated by shore control when a ship was fixed as being within the mine's effective range.[3]

In Pre-World War I years mine ships were termed mine planters generally. For example, in an address to the U.S. Navy ships of Mine Squadron One at Portland, England Admiral Sims used the term “mine layer” while the introduction speaks of the men assembled from the “mine planters”[4]. During and after that war the term "mine planter" became particularly associated with defensive coastal fortifications. The term "minelayer" applied vessels deploying both defensive and offensive mine barrages and large scale sea mining. "Minelayer" lasted well past the last common use of "mine planter" in the late 1940s. The term also sometimes refers to an army's special-purpose combat engineering vehicles used to lay land mines.


Naval minelayers

Swedish minelayer Ãlvsborg (1974)

The most common use of the term "minelayer" is a naval ship used for deploying sea mines. In the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I, mines laid by the Ottoman Empire's Navy's Nusrat sank HMS Irresistible, HMS Ocean, and the French battleship Bouvet[5] in the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915[6] . The Russian minelayer Amur was also efficient; it sank the Japanese battleships Hatsuse and Yashima in 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War.[7]

In World War II, the British employed the Abdiel class minelayers both as minelayers and as transports to isolated garrisons, such as Malta and Tobruk. Their combination of high speed (up to 40 knots) and carrying capacity was highly valued. The French used the same concept for the Pluton.

A naval minelayer can vary considerably in size, from coastal boats of several hundred tonnes in displacement to destroyer-like ships of several thousand tonnes in displacement. Apart from their loads of sea mines, most would also carry other weapons for self-defense.

Submarines can also act as minelayers. The first submarine to be designed as such was the Russian submarine Krab. USS Argonaut (SM-1) was also one such minelaying submarine.

Aerial minelaying

Beginning in World War II, aircraft were used to deliver mines. They would be dropped, attached to a parachute. Germany, Britain, and the U.S. made significant use of aerial minelaying. The British, in codename Operation GARDENING, dropped mines in the Danube River near Belgrade, Yugoslavia, starting on 1944-04-08, to block the shipments of petroleum products from the refineries at Ploeşti, Romania[8]. A German magnetic mine landed in a mudflat where disposal experts deciphered its operation, which allowed Britain to fashion appropriate countermeasures. In the Pacific, the U.S. dropped thousands of mines in Japanese home waters, contributing to that country's defeat.

Mining was also used in the Korean War and in Vietnam. In Vietnam, rivers and coastal waters were extensively mined with a modified bomb called a destructor that proved very successful.

In modern times, most navies worldwide no longer possess any minelaying vessels; the United States Navy, for example, uses aircraft to lay sea mines instead. A few navies still have minelayers in commission; these include South Korea, Norway, Sweden. and Finland, countries with long, shallow coastlines where sea mines are most effective.

See also


  1. ^ "minelayer - Definitions from". Retrieved 2007-10-06.  
  2. ^ |Ft. Miles - Principle Armament - Mine Field - Army Mine Planters
  3. ^| Submarine Mine Defense of San Francisco Bay
  4. ^ | The Northern Barrage, Mine Force, United States Atlantic Fleet, The North Sea, 1918 (p. 107) - Speech of Admiral W. S. Sims, U. S. Navy
  5. ^ | WORLD WAR 1 at SEA
  6. ^ | New York Times, Saturday, March 20, 1915
  7. ^ Fitzsimons, B. (Ed.), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare, p 104.
  8. ^ Adkins, Paul; Codeword Dictionary; 1997; Osceola, Wisconsin; Motorbooks International; p. 79.


  • Hartcup, Guy. The Challenge of War. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1970.
  • Hartmann, Gregory K. Weapons that Wait: Mine Warfare in the U.S. Navy. Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute Press, 1979. ISBN 0870217534.


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