Initially developed to destroy naval mines, the paravane would be strung out and streamed alongside the towing ship, normally from the bow. The wings of the paravane would tend to force the body away from the towing ship, placing a lateral tension on the towing wire. If the tow cable snagged the cable anchoring a mine then the anchoring cable would be cut, allowing the mine to float to the surface where it could be destroyed by gunfire. If the anchor cable would not part, the mine and the paravane would be brought together and the mine would explode harmlessly against the paravane. The cable could then be retrieved and a replacement paravane fitted.
A paravane being lowered into the sea from an Australian warship in 1940.
Lieutenant 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 by hand from the ship's bridge. It could be quickly deployed into the water and towed up to 25 knots (46 km/h), and recovery if unsuccessful was reasonably simple.