RAN 16th MSS – Minesweepers To Minehunters

Minesweepers to Minehunters -The Changing History of The HMAS Curlew and The HMAS Snipe.

The RAN purchased six Ton Class Minesweepers from Britain in 1961; to of the minesweepers were built as mine hunters, but functioned as minesweepers until the late 1960s when they were converted to mine hunters.

HMAS Curlew decommissioned in December 1966 and was converted to a mine hunter at Garden Island Dock, Sydney, and re commissioned in 1968.

HMAS Snipe decommissioned the day before in 1968 and went into dockyard hands to be converted to a minehunter.Both operated together as mine hunters from late 1969 until Snipe decommissioned in 1983 and Curlew in 1991.
The conversion entailed fitting a high definition, short range sonar, the A/S 193 into the dome space, rudders were replaced
with active rudders and the ship was steered with a joystick via a computer instead of the traditional wheel. The crew was made up of 3 officers and 28 other ranks with 5 being Clearance Divers.
Tons converted for mine hunting had their influence minesweeping systems removed but retained their Oropesa mechanical Sweeps.

In May and June 1975 the minehunters HMAS Curlew and HMAS Snipe, using their A/S 193 sonar, together with the minesweeper HMAS Ibis surveyed the approaches to Darwin and the harbour itself, locating trawlers sunk during Cyclone Tracy, and other navigational hazards. Both ships surveyed the approaches to all major ports in Australia, surveyed the recommended
passages through the Great Barrier Reef and helped with the location and recovery of an RAAF F111 which crashed into the sea in New Zealand.

The operation of clearing mines entailed locating the mine using the sonar, maneuvering the ship with the active rudders to keep it stationary while divers were sent in an inflatable boat using radar ranging to a position directly over the mine where they either placed an underwater charge by diving down or winched an explosive device to a position alongside the mine.

All Text and Photographs copyright  and used with the kind permission of Phil Bensted who kindly wrote
this piece for us regarding the change from Minesweeper to Minehunters.
Phil Bensteds’ main site can be
found at  Bensted Home Pages
And his tribute to the minesweepers to minehunters can be found here

The Navy News has a nice piece regarding Cyclone Tracy and the role the Navy played in helping with the rescue and recovery operations, including the roles of the Mine hunters HMAS Snipe and Curlew.