torpedo boat

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torpedo boat,

small fast warship built specially for using the torpedo as a means of attack. The first modern torpedotorpedo,
in naval warfare, a self-propelled submarine projectile loaded with explosives, used for the destruction of enemy ships. Although there were attempts at subsurface warfare in the 16th and 17th cent.
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 boat was the Lightning, built for the British navy in 1877 by the shipyards of Sir John Isaac Thornycroft. Torpedo boats were adopted by most of the world's major navies, but as they increased in size the destroyerdestroyer,
class of warship very fast relative to its length, generally equipped with torpedos, antisubmarine equipment, and medium-caliber and antiaircraft guns. The newest destroyers are equipped with guided missiles as their chief offensive weapon.
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 was developed as an effective defense against them. They diminished in importance after the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) and were used sparingly in World War I, but they were widely employed in World War II. At that time torpedo boats, often referred to as PT boats, were commonly used in attacking enemy coastal shipping and light naval forces under cover of darkness and bad weather. They were usually wooden vessels 75 to 125 ft (22.8–38.1 m) long, powered by gasoline or diesel engines and capable of very high speeds.


See Jane's Fighting Ships (pub. annually since 1897); B. Cooper, The Battle of the Torpedo Boats (1970).

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Torpedo Boat


a class of warships designed to destroy enemy ships with the use of torpedoes. Torpedo boats existed in the second half of the 19th century and in the early 20th. The first torpedo boats appeared in 1863 during the Civil War in the USA.

In Russia the construction of torpedo boats began in 1877. At first small torpedo boats were designed for activity near the coast (water displacement from 20 to 76 tons, speed up to 15 knots, and armed with one torpedo tube); later larger torpedo boats were also built. The first oceangoing torpedo boat of the Russian Navy was the Vzryv (commissioned in 1877, displacement 160 tons, speed 12.3 knots, and armed with one submarine torpedo tube). At the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 the Russian Navy had 148 torpedo boats, some of which were used in combat. Torpedo boats were subsequently improved to increase displacement, speed, and torpedo and mine weaponry.

With the appearance of destroyers prior to World War I (1914–18), torpedo boats lost their importance, and construction was discontinued. (In 1914 the Russian Navy had only 45 torpedo boats.)


Torpedo Boat


a small warship designed to destroy enemy warships and transports with torpedoes. Torpedo boats were widely used in World War II (1939–45) and in the Great Patriotic War (1941–45).

Torpedo boats built for the postwar navies of various states have a displacement of 50–200 tons and a maximum speed of 50 knots (over 90 km/hour). They are armed with two to six 533-mm torpedo tubes and one or two 40- or 20-mm antiaircraft machine guns, and they can drop depth charges and lay mines. These boats are equipped with navigational, radio, and other devices that enable them to navigate and use their weapons under difficult conditions.

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

torpedo boat

[tȯr′pēd·ō ‚bōt]
(naval architecture)
Small, fast vessel that is equipped with torpedo tubes, carries very light guns, and uses its inconspicuousness and speed to get within torpedo range of a target.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

torpedo boat

(formerly) a small high-speed warship designed to carry out torpedo attacks in coastal waters
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005