Minelaying is the act of deploying explosive mines. Historically this has been carried out by ships, submarines and aircraft. Additionally, the term Minelayer refers specifically to a naval ship used for deploying sea mines. The term also sometimes refers to an army's special-purpose combat engineering vehicles used to lay land mines.

Naval minelayers

The most common use of the term "minelayer" is a naval ship used for deploying sea mines. Probably the most famous minelayer in history is the Ottoman Empire's Navy's Nusrat, active during the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War. Nusrat laid the mines that sank , , and the French battleship Bouvet in the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915. The Russian minelayer Amur was also efficient; it sunk the Japanese battleships Hatsuse and Yashima in 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War.

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. 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 Ploesti, Roumania. 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



  • Hartcup, Guy. The Challenge of War. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1970.
  • Hartmann, Gregory K. Weapons that Wait. Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute Press, 1979.

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