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small warship for use on rivers and along coasts in places inaccessible to vessels of larger displacement. In the U.S. Civil War both sides used as gunboats, on the Mississippi and other rivers, any boat that had an engine and had room to mount a gun. Gunboats were widely employed by the European powers in the Far and Middle East and Africa during the late 19th and early 20th cent. for police duty. More recently, gunboats equipped with gas-turbine propulsion plants were used by the U.S. navy for coastal patrol operations during the Vietnam War.


See Jane's Fighting Ships (pub. annually since 1897).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Russian, kanonerskaia logka; from French canonnière, from canon, “gun”), a combat artillery ship designed for combat operations in coastal waters, in shallow waters, and in rivers. Gunboats are divided into sea and river types.

Gunboats may be specially designed, but in wartime the number is usually increased by reequiping shallow-draft vessels from the commercial, fishing, and industrial fleets. Gunboats are used to deliver artillery strikes at coastal objectives and the men and matériel of the enemy, to destroy small coastal ships and vessels, and for artillery support of the coastal flanks of the ground troops. In addition they may be used in landing operations and in operations against landing forces, to lay mines and transport troops, and for convoy service and patrol duty. The displacement of gunboats does not exceed 2, 500 tons, and their speed is from nine to 20 knots (17 to 37 km per hour). Their main armament consists of between two and five 76-mm to 152-mm artillery mounts. For defense against enemy aircraft, gunboats may have small-caliber (20– mm) automatic antiaircraft guns and large-caliber antiaircraft machine guns. Since World War II the development of coastal rocket artillery has reduced the role of gunboats as naval artillery ships for coastal action, according to foreign data, but they still retain their value in wartime foractions in lakes and rivers.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(naval architecture)
A small, moderate-speed, heavily armed vessel for general patrol and escort duty; usually unarmored and of less than 2000 tons.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a small shallow-draft vessel carrying mounted guns and used by coastal patrols, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Next, three Iranian gunboats crossed in front of the USS Tempest, a small patrol ship, but were 600 yards away.
It is reportedly the third time over the last few months that Turkish gunboats have accosted or harassed research vessels near or inside the EEZ.
Black Survivor's other close descendants include Deerfield Sunset (St Leger), Gunboat Jeff (Cesarewitch) and Super Gunboat (Grand National).
Cyprus reported Turkey to the United Nations more than two years ago after what it said were Turkish gunboats harassing Cypriot-contracted exploration vessels.
SUSPICIONS that a boat sunk by a Japanese gunboat was a spy vessel from North Korea are mounting after Korean script was found on items recovered from three dead sailors.
A Sri Lankan naval gunboat was sunk after a suicide attack by Tamil separatist guerrillas Wednesday off the coast of Mullaithivu in the northeast of the island, security sources said.
Her dam Gunboat Ann also threw Gunboat Jeff (Irish Cesarewitch) and super Gunboat (Irish Grand National), while Gunboat Ann's half-sister Sunset Blonde is the dam of Deerfield Sunset (Irish St Leger) and Ratsatory (Northern Flat).
NNA - A gunboat belonging to the Israeli enemy violated yesterday at 18.46 pm, the Lebanese territorial waters off Ras Naqoura, and infiltrated some 335 meters into the sea for FIVE minutes, a communique by the Lebanese army indicated on Wednesday.
FOREIGN Minister Marcos Kyprianou aptly described Turkey's antics in the sea south of Cyprus as gunboat diplomacy.
Dam Cool Survivor (Lodge Prince-Gunboat Ann) won the Irish Oaks, while Gunboat Ann's half-sister Sunset Blonde threw last year's Irish St Leger winner Deerfield Sunset.
NNA - A gunboat belonging to the Israeli enemy violated yesterday at 18.51 pm, the Lebanese territorial waters off Ras Naqoura, and infiltrated some 240 meters into the sea for three minutes, a communique by the Lebanese army indicated on Friday.
Just before arriving in the waters of Gaza, an Israeli naval gunboat approached, cutting across the bow of the Dignity, then falling back and tracking it for about an hour.