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 naval 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]

Before World War I, 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.

An army's special-purpose combat engineering vehicles used to lay landmines are sometimes called "minelayers".


Naval minelayers

Swedish minelayer Älvsborg (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 Nusret sank HMS Irresistible, HMS Ocean, and the French battleship Bouvet[5] in the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915.[6] Russian minelayers were also efficient; sinking 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.

In modern times, most navies worldwide no longer possess minelaying vessels; the United States Navy, for example, uses aircraft to lay sea mines instead. Mines themselves have evolved from purely passive to active; for example in the U.S. CAPTOR (enCAPsulated TORpedo) that sits as a mine until detecting a target upon which a torpedo is launched. A few navies still have minelayers in commission, including those of Turkey, South Korea, Norway, Sweden and Finland, countries with long, shallow coastlines where sea mines are most effective.

Hämeenmaa-class minelayer FNS Uusimaa

Aerial minelaying

Beginning in World War II, aircraft were used to deliver naval mines by dropping them, attached to a parachute. Germany, Britain, and the U.S. made significant use of aerial minelaying.

A new type of magnetic mine dropped by a German aircraft in a campaign of mining the Thames Estuary in 1939 landed in a mudflat, where disposal experts determined how it worked, which allowed Britain to fashion appropriate mine countermeasures.

The RAF operations were codenamed "Gardening". As well as mining the North Sea and approaches to German ports, mines were laid in the Danube River near Belgrade, Yugoslavia, starting on 8 April 1944, to block the shipments of petroleum products from the refineries at Ploeşti, Romania.[8]

In the Pacific, the U.S. dropped thousands of mines in Japanese home waters, contributing to that country's defeat.

Aerial 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.

Landmine laying

Some examples of minelaying vehicles:

  • Shielder minelaying system
  • GMZ family of minelayers, which the 2S4 Tyulpan is based on, using TM-62 series mines
  • Minenwerfer Skorpion
    Skorpion Minelayer
  • Type94 Minelayer
    JGSDF Type94 Minelayer
  • El-Fahda (Egypt)
  • Istrice (M113 variant)

See also


  1. ^ "minelayer - Definitions from Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/minelayer. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  2. ^ http://www.fortmiles.org/firepower/batteries/batt8.html#AMP |Ft. Miles - Principle Armament - Mine Field - Army Mine Planters
  3. ^ http://www.militarymuseum.org/Mines.html%7C Submarine Mine Defense of San Francisco Bay
  4. ^ http://www.archive.org/stream/northernbarragem00annarich#page/106/mode/2up | 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. ^ http://www.naval-history.net/WW1NavyFrench.htm | WORLD WAR 1 at SEA
  6. ^ http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A03E0DF153EE033A25753C2A9659C946496D6CF | 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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Look at other dictionaries:

  • minelayer — n. a ship equipped for laying underwater mines. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • minelayer — [mīn′lā΄ər] n. a naval vessel specially designed and equipped to lay explosive mines in the water …   English World dictionary

  • minelayer — noun Date: 1886 a naval vessel for laying underwater mines …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • minelayer — /muyn lay euhr/, n. a naval ship equipped for laying mines in the water. [1905 10; MINE2 + LAY1 + ER1] * * * …   Universalium

  • minelayer — noun A ship that lays mines or one designed or intended to lay mines …   Wiktionary

  • minelayer — noun a warship, aircraft, or land vehicle from which explosive mines are laid. Derivatives minelaying noun …   English new terms dictionary

  • minelayer — mine•lay•er [[t]ˈmaɪnˌleɪ ər[/t]] n. a naval ship equipped for laying mines in the water • Etymology: 1905–10 …   From formal English to slang

  • minelayer — n. a ship or aircraft for laying mines …   Useful english dictionary

  • No.1 class auxiliary minelayer — Aux. Minelayer No.1 on 28 February 1942 Class overview Name: No.1 class auxiliary minelayer Builders: Uraga D …   Wikipedia

  • Natsushima class minelayer (1933) — Natsushima in 1933 Class overview Name: Tsubame class minelayer Builders: Tōkyō Ishika …   Wikipedia

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