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Naval vessel used to clear submarine mines from an expanse of water. In naval warfare, they are used to clear mines from sea-lanes to protect merchant shipping as well as to clear paths for warships to engage in battle or amphibious warfare. The earliest examples used sweeping wires with sawlike projections to cut the cables anchoring submarine mines and allow them to rise to the surface, where they would be destroyed by gunfire. The wide use of magnetic mines (set off by the magnetic field of steel ships) in the Korean War led to wood-hulled minesweepers.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on minesweeper, visit Britannica.com.