torpedo in a submarine before inserting into the torpedo pipe

the modern torpedo is a homing underwater weapon with own drive and an explosive charge. It ignites on contact, and/or. today on approximation to a goal. That torpedo becomes mostlybrought with submarines in connection, can be used however also from ships , airplanes and helicopters. He finds use particularly on submarines, torpedo boats as well as torpedo bombers. In addition, destroyers and partly even cruisers and battle ships became with torpedoesequipped. There are also naval mines, which fire torpedoes. Already in the First World War torpedoes were fired from country.

Torpedoes can form components of other weapon systems. The MK-46 torpedo of NATO is assigned rocket, those the warhead of the ASROC - against submarinesand also by the naval mine type MK-60 CAPTOR is fired. The usually-used torpedo, which can be fired only by submarines, is the American Marks 48. On the new German submarines of the class 212A the DM2A4 is used .

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word origin

the word torpedo leads itself from a fish kind from the order of the Torpediniformes andthe family of the Torpenidae (trembling skates) off. These fish refer their name again from latin word „torpere “, which can be translated with „lame “. This name does not have to do anything with the form of the weapon, but however with the fact that thoseSkates „impacts “to out-divide can.

In the linguistic usage of the navy the term was used first by American engineer Robert Fulton, which used it in connection with its submarine Nautilus around the year 1800.


Torpedo, 2. Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts
torpedo, 2. Half 19.Century

original, in the second half 19. Century, one named each explosive charge in the water, also naval mines the term torpedo so rather.

The first form of the torpedo was the Spierentorpedo. During the American civil war, as itseemed, the ship armoring was superior to the projectiles, one saw a possibility armoring overcoming, by bringing a large explosive charge by means of a bar (Spiere) directly to the hostile ship. The operational principle corresponded approximately to that the Petarde. FirstSubmarine, which used a Spierentorpedo, was the H. L. Hunley, which sank thereby the USS Housatonic of the union troops. It sank after the attack however from still unsettled causes themselves.

The first prototypes of screw-driven torpedoes became from Croatian engineer Ivan Lupis Vukić, which served in the Austria Hungarian niches navy, develops and built. The presentation took place 1860 in Rijeka.

As model for principle and structure of modern torpedoes the Whitehead is considered - to torpedo, that after his designer, English engineer Robert Whitehead, one designated. For the first time Whitehead developed the torpedo for the Austrian army and demonstrated it 1866 in Fiume (Rijeka). These torpedoes carried 9 kg a heavy explosive charge in the point, had a range of 300 to 400 meters andreached a speed of 6 knots. As energy source for the drive compressed air on 40 kp/cm ², which was carried in a receiver, served.

With these early designs the fins into the nose range were pulled, around the counter moment to thatTo adjust propelling screw. Because of this characteristic appearance these torpedoes also fish torpedo were called. Since more modern constructions are propelled in principle by two screws moving in opposite directions, whose Gegendrehmomente waive themselves, these get along with comparatively small control surfaces.

The first successful employment of a Whitehead torpedo,a ship was sunk, found to 26. January 1878 instead of. A Russian boat under the command of Stepan Ossipowitsch Makarow met thereby a Turkish 2000-Tonnen ship from 80 meters distance.

The development of the torpedo with propulsion led to onenew quality in tactical thinking. End 19. Century fast torpedo boats and destroyer were developed, which affected again the drafts and tactics of the large warships strongly.

The first assigned torpedoes kept, a straight course once shot, to them to itOr was used up their fuel hit target.

drive systems

early one current torpedoes were propelled by compressed air, which affected on a reciprocating engine or a turbine and so the screw propelled. Whereupon constructing 19 became starting from the end.Century that steam gas torpedo develops, which was designated after its drive system. The steam gas drive is beside the electric drive the most common drive form for torpedoes and uses likewise compressed air as propellant. The energy content of compressed air becomes however by heating air up before entrance intothe drive turbine increases. As source of energy here a carried fuel set serves. Air and the exhaust gases are discharged generally by the screw wave and produce one of the water surface from clearly visible Blasenspur. This system is relatively easily, simple and reliable.The Blasenspur can unmask however the career of the torpedo and the firing place, and because of the ambient pressure of the water such torpedoes are hardly suitable for the submarine hunt.
Therefore the first electrical torpedoes in the time before the Second World War, which more quietly, developedrun and no Blasenspur produce. They are more with difficulty to locate and also in large depths applicable. Z supplied the driving power. B. Lead accumulators, whose relatively small energy content and high weight are however unfavorable. Therefore also different Akkuvarianten becomes howZinc silver Akkus assigned.
Modern torpedoes with electrical or steam gas drive reach a speed to approximately 55 knots.
Toward end of the Second World War research began to the reactive drive of torpedoes, which is used today with some torpedo models. Both solid becomesand liquid engines uses. Reactively propelled torpedoes are very fast compared to the other drive systems, have however usually a smaller range. Modern supercavitation torpedoes (see below) to leave only with reactive drive technically to convert itself, since screw drives do not produce the necessary drive powercould and in the steam bubble, which surrounds the torpedo, would be also ineffective. With the reactive drives usual rocket fuels are used, it give however research, which has the employment of metallic fuels with supercavitation torpedoes as a goal. Z would be conceivable. B. a combinationof aluminum powder and water or water vapour. Metallic fuels have a higher energy content and to produce a higher specific impulse than on hydrocarbons or hydrogen based fuels. Problematic however the high burn temperatures and the high erosion load of the drive nozzle are by the Verbrennungsprodukte.

operational principle

amerikanischer, deutscher und britischer Torpedo aus dem 2. Weltkrieg (v.o.n.u.)
of American, Germans and British torpedoes from that 2. World war (v.o.n.u.)

the operational principle of the torpedo remained today to a large extent alike until, although modern torpedoes possess some components more than early designs. Thus torpedoes point also today stilla cigar form up and swim with the attack on surface ships scarcely under the water surface. Alternatively one tries to ignite torpedoes under the keel line of the goal. The ship is met first by the pressure wave and by the gas bubble expanding under the shipthe ship loses here the lift and breaks apart.

The attack on a dipped opposing submarine against it usually takes place in large depth. Modern torpedoes reach water depths of approximately 750 meters. Around a hostile submarine, which substantiallythan surface ships and in addition in all three dimensions to move can to locate possess today's torpedoes are more agiler active and passive sonar detectors at their point.

The signals received here are passed on and evaluated into the center of the torpedo. Due to of theResult of analysis gives a computer to the tax fins at the end of the torpedo instructions for change of direction.

The first self-controlling torpedoes arose in the Second World War . The German „surface searching torpedo “(briefly FAT) a torpedo, which firmly given zigzag - lines drove, was around its hit chances To increase convoy formations. In addition that came acoustically its goal looking for „Zaunkönig “, which counterpart too „wall ring Anne “ of the allied ones.

Englische Torpedos, Zweiter Weltkrieg
English torpedoes, the Second World War

steering control

these tax fins can be affected today also from the shooting submarine.For this purpose that pulls torpedo a thin tax wire behind itself ago. Further instructions can be conveyed in such a way such as emergency shut-down and premature detonation to the torpedo - an important advantage, should turn the own torpedo and the own boat unexpectedlyunderstand as a goal.

Apart from the depth charge that is torpedo the only weapon for the active fight against dipped submarines. It ranks therefore among the most important weapons in the naval warfare at all. While ship cannons hardly changed over the years, those madeTorpedo technology from the First World War to today remarkable progress.

A boat of the Virginia - class launches torpedo (diagram)

beside torpedoes with conventional Sprengkopf since the cold war also torpedo with atomic blowing up head is built. These were however never tested.

Rocket-powered torpedoes

thosetorpedoes with supercavitation blister so mentioned and rocket propulsion represent newest development by a solid-propellant rocket, which are fast at least 200 knots. The navy of the Soviet Union played here a role of the pioneer and placed to 1977 the first operational supercavitation torpedo (Schkwal) in service.These torpedoes are to have a flattened nose. Behind it an edge is to be, behind which the cavitation blister forms. With the help of the bypass of exhaust gases the cavitation blister is to be extended additionally. The first Schkwal torpedoes were unguided and for nuclear Sprengköpfeplanned. Later Schkwal torpedoes and the export model Schkwal E are not homing, which must target datas before the firing into the autopilot of the torpedo is programmed. They possess conventional Sprengköpfe with 210 kg TNT. It is reported by more modern Schkwal torpedoes, thosemove homing. By a misfortune with a defective torpedo the Russian atom submarine Kursk sank itself to 12. August 2000 probably.

Torpedo test

the large torpedo scandal

the large torpedo scandal found between December 1941 and August 1943in the USA instead of, the roots continue to lag behind however. Mainly that was concerned steam torpedo Mk14 of US Navy. With the destroyer version Mk15 problems were hardly noticeable. Probably misses and failures could hardly be differentiated with the fast destroyer fights inContrast to the better controlled torpedo shots of the submarine. The torpedoes anyhow hardly differed.

  • The first problem of the Mk14-Torpedos was depth control, which divides itself in at least four Unterkategorien.
  1. Differences between calibration and combat shots: Torpedo weight and - weight distribution changed withChange to the engagements torpedo, since the Sprengkopf was heavier than the mockup head used for the calibration. In addition the conditions were with the calibration shots different than in combat. For calibration by surface ships one fired and not of dipped torpedo pipes. In addition were the speeds,with those that torpedo the pipe left, as well as acceleration after the firing differently than on engagements conditions.
  2. Design and Herstellungsfehler, which changed the calibration with the time or environment, like for example leaky coverings.
  3. Incorrect calibration, like for example missingExamination against an absolute standard or leaving on hydrostatic depth computation, without ever examining the correctness of the data won from it.
  4. Insufficient technical understanding. For example the importance of the water river became and - river pressure at the surface of a fast torpedo ignores.That engagements torpedo drove about 3 meter more deeply than that to calibration torpedo, which was beside the heavier warhead also because of the wrong assembly of the pressure sensor.
  • The second problem was the varying reliability of the magneto ignition in the Mk6-Zündeinheit. Magneto ignitions offered a large incentiveas delayed-action fuzes, since they offered the possibility for the explosion under the vulnerable soil of a ship. The philosophy with the magneto ignition was recognizing the constant magnetic field of the trunk or the earth's magnetic field change because of the high iron portion of a ship. This idea was well, but execution at the time at that time more than with difficulty, since the earth's magnetic field with the different degrees of latitude changes strongly. Therefore CinCPac (COMM other in Chief Pacific, commander in chief of the Pacific fleet) left all torpedoes with magneto ignition to 24. June 1943 select andreplace by such with impact fuze.
  • The third problem was the impact fuze. After the problems with depth control solved and the magneto ignition was deactivated, the impact fuze had to prove a its being able. Unfortunately there was an abundance of „Duds at the beginning “,the impact in the goal without explosion. The problems were fast repaired. The impact strength for releasing the Mk6-Zünders was accurately alike as the Mk4 and Mk5-Zünder blocked with the older Mk13-Torpedo. The Mk13-Torpedo was however clearly slower with 33,5 knots than that46.3 knots fast Mk14-Torpedo. The impact of the Mk14 was thus nearly twice as strong. With the impact therefore vertical patch cords were bent to the cartridge so much, them the cartridge missed. With diagonal hits the forces were smaller and the fuzesfunctioned more frequently. After one had saved a failure - after the test firing on a reef -, the problem could be repaired.

The German war navy had comparable problems with the torpedoes assigned from it to beginning of the Second World War, as Torpedo crisis to be designated.


  • Manfrad Schiffner, Karl-Heinz Dohmen & Ronald Friedrich: To torpedo armament, military publishing house of the GDR, ISBN 3327003319

see also

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