While the primary objective of Minesweepers was to detect Mines and disable them, there was another concept of protecting ships against mines: To create a safe passage through a minefield by using a special ship that sails in front and detonates the mines before they can harm a much more valuable ship.
The ships used for this task - the Pathmakers (or German: Sperrbrecher) had to be very robust to withstand mine explosions. By 1940 the magnetic mines were the biggest threat for ships entering or leaving their bases; laid by aircraft during the night they could cause severe damage when staying undetected. Therefore the Pathfinders were equipped with a VES-System, basically a huge magnetic field generator that could explode magnetic mines in a save distance.
From this time, Pathmakers were used to escort surface ships and Uboats from and to their bases to remove mines and - with their quite heavy AA armamment - give some additional protection against air attacks. Because of this, the ships were often equipped with barrage balloons.
Over 100 Pathfinders - mainly former merchant ships with a size of about 5000 ts - were used during the war and it is not very surprising that about 50 % of them were lost in this dangerous role. Some of the surviving ships were later used as merchant ships again and served until the 1970s.
On the other sections of this page, the technical data for a typical Pathmaker, the Sperrbrecher 32, is shown.