Paravane (weapon)

The paravane /ˈpærəvn/, a form of towed underwater "glider" with a warhead that was used in anti-submarine warfare, was developed from 1914–16 by Commander Usborne and Lieutenant C. Dennistoun Burney, funded by Sir George White, founder of the Bristol Aeroplane Company.[1] It was used against naval mines and submarines.

Paravane mine-sweeping
Lowering the Diverta Paravane from HMS Bentinck, off Greenock
Hull of the Gorgon-class monitor HMS Glatton in dry dock, showing the bulge, and paravane chains at the bow.


Initially developed to destroy naval mines, the paravane is strung out and streamed alongside the towing ship, often from the bow, but in many WWII applications aboard minesweepers, the paravane was towed from the stern. The wings of the paravane pull it away laterally from the towing ship, placing a tension on the tow cable. If the tow cable snags the cable anchoring a mine then the anchoring cable is cut by jaws on the paravane, allowing the mine to float to the surface, where it is destroyed by gunfire. If the anchor cable fails to part, the mine and the paravane are brought together and the mine explodes against the paravane. The cable can then be retrieved and a replacement paravane fitted.

A paravane being lowered into the sea from an Australian warship in 1940.

Burney developed explosive paravanes as an anti-submarine weapon, a "high speed sweep". It was a paravane, containing 80 pounds (36 kg) of TNT towed by an armoured electric cable. The warhead was fired automatically as soon as the submarine touched the paravane or towing cable, or manually from the ship's bridge. It could be quickly deployed into the water and towed up to 25 knots (46 km/h), and recovery was reasonably simple.

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  1. ^ Leasor, James (2001) [1957]. The Millionth Chance: The Story of the R.101. London: Stratus Books. p. 66.


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