Torpedoes

Article

August 12, 2022

Torpedo - a submarine missile, usually having its own propulsion system, an independent system of underwater weapons used to destroy enemy vessels by damaging them below the waterline. They were originally used to combat surface ships, and from the middle of the 20th century also submerged submarines. Fired from torpedo tubes, they are armed with submarines and surface ships, they are dropped from airplanes and helicopters, and can also be a combat load of rockets (rocket-torpedoes) or mines (minotorpedoes). Historically also fired from shore launchers. The first attempts to implement the idea of ​​an explosive weapon from the submerged part of the ship date back to 1800. At first, torpedoes also meant devices without a propulsion system, but eventually the name was equated with self-propelled torpedoes. Despite the efforts of many inventors, the first designer who managed to develop an effective missile of this type in the mid-nineteenth century was Robert Whitehead, whose design remains a classic solution in this field to this day. The rapid development of this weapon, initiated by the Whitehead torpedo, was further intensified during the world wars in the first half of the 20th century, when combustion engines began to be replaced by electric drives. Around this time, the standard inertial steering system began to be assisted by a sonar-based acoustic guidance system. The development of new warhead designs led to the operational use of warheads with charges specially shaped to pierce armored ship hulls and detonators detonating warheads under the keel of the attacked units. Driven by the Cold War arms race, technological advances in underwater weapons have led to the development of new types of propulsion for torpedoes, as well as new methods of guidance. Increasing the sensitivity of passive sonars and the advancement of active sonars, as well as the introduction of track guidance systems, combined with the use of primarily analog and then digital computer systems, capable of data analysis and decision making, made torpedoes intelligent, multi-approach capable to the goal, to independently work out ways of approaching the goal depending on the tactical situation, and to conduct a "war of robots" with also intelligent passive and active anti-torpedo devices. For nearly two centuries of operational use of torpedoes, especially since the beginning of the 20th century, this type of weapon has become one of the most effective tools of wars and naval battles, taking the priority of ship artillery and air bombs. During World War I and II, ships of all naval classes fell victim to torpedoes, including the largest and most heavily armored ships of the line ever built, as well as aircraft carriers. The use of this type of ammunition almost led to the fall of Great Britain during World War I and became one of the primary tools for bringing down the Japanese Empire during the Pacific War. After the end of the conflict with the Axis states, torpedoes, which from the very beginning were the basic weapon of submarines, became the most important and main weapon used to fight them, without losing anything of importance in the previous role of anti-surface ships.

Torpedo construction development

In the nineteenth century, the name of Robert Whitehead was synonymous with his invention in the press of that time - torpedoes were then called "whiteheads". The history of torpedoes, understood as an explosive device moving towards a target (as opposed to mines) affecting a target at or below its waterline, however, originated from the inventor Robert Fulton, ok