torpedo(redirected from Torpedos)
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torpedo, in naval warfare
See Bureau of Naval Personnel, Principles of Naval Ordnance and Gunnery (1959); R. Fulton, Torpedo War and Submarine Explosions (1810, repr. 1971).
a weapon consisting of a self-propelled, self-guided, cigar-shaped underwater projectile that carries a conventional or nuclear warhead. Torpedoes are designed to disable submarines and surface ships and destroy moorings, docks and other shoreline targets. They are included in the armament of submarines, antisubmarine vessels, destroyers, and torpedo boats, as well as airplanes and helicopters. On ships, torpedoes are launched from torpedo tubes.
The first model of a torpedo was built in 1866 by the British engineer R. Whitehead on the basis of a proposal by the Austrian naval officer G. Luppis. Whitehead’s torpedo resembled a spindle. It had a length of 3.5 m, a total weight of 140 kg (the weight of the explosive was about 8 kg), and a maximum range of 800 m at a speed of 6–8 knots (11–15 km/hour). (See Figure 1 for a diagram of a torpedo.)
Beginning in the 1870’s, torpedoes were rapidly introduced into the navies of many states and soon became the primary weapon of destroyers, submarines, and torpedo boats; cruisers and ships of the line of that period were also armed with torpedoes. Torpedoes were first used by Russian vessels in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. They were also used in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, in which 263 torpedoes were launched, and in World War I, in which 1,500 torpedoes were launched.
Prior to World War II, torpedoes were powered by a piston engine running on a mixture of steam and gases; the turbine engine was introduced during the war. Torpedo aircraft were developed in the early 1930’s. During World War II the submarines, surface ships, and torpedo aircraft of the USA and Great Britain alone launched about 30,000 torpedoes. The Japanese armed forces used torpedoes piloted by suicide volunteers (seeKAICHEN).
Depending on the type of engine installed, the torpedoes used by modern navies are classified as steam, electric, or rocket-propelled. The length of a torpedo ranges from 2.6 m to more than 9 m. Torpedoes have either a contact fuze, which operates on impact with a ship’s hull, or a proximity fuze, which is activated at a given distance from the target vessel by one of the vessel’s physical fields and inflicts damage by detonating the charge beneath the vessel’s hull.
Torpedoes contain complex equipment that automatically controls their motion with respect to direction and depth. Torpedoes may be homing, or they may follow a straight course or a preset pattern. Some torpedoes are designed for use against both submarines and surface ships.
F. I. KOZLOV