Who Invented The Torpedo And How Does It Work As An Anti-Ship And Anti-Submarine Weapon?

Our world had gone through several wars over the years, and these wars left a mark in our history. The emergence of war sparked innovations from brilliant minds to strengthen their country’s forces. The evolution of war weapons rapidly grew during the 19th century, and many of these are used in World War I & II. Until today, the weaponry of each nation is continuously developing in hopes of attaining greater power over others.

One of the most remarkable weapons invented in the 19th century is the underwater missile – Torpedo.

In this article, let us look into the definition of the torpedo, who invented it, and how does it work?

What is a torpedo?

A torpedo is a ranged weapon used underwater. It usually has a long slim barrel-like appearance carried by submarines and other military vehicles. It is a missile that bursts towards a targetusing a propeller and comes with an explosive warhead that will explode upon contact or by detonation – sometimes depending on how it is programmed.

There are several types of a torpedo, and not all of them can pierce through the body of ship vessels before exploding. Some of them would explode even before having contact with the ship, which will cause a giant gas bubble that will also damage the opposing target.

The evolution of torpedoes became useful to military forces, especially during the World Wars. Experts and engineers keep upgrading the modern torpedoes and spend large amounts of funds to developing better versions of this missile along with other artilleries.

Who invented the torpedo?

The concept of torpedoes originated hundreds of years ago, even before the discovery of America. One of the early proposals of torpedo-like weapons was in 1275, wherein an Arab engineer Hasal al-Rammah conceptualized the possibility of an egg-shaped projectile carrying fire, which propelled underwater. Besides this design, several other military scientists visualized various models of the torpedoes throughout the years.

Moreover, the British engineer Robert Whitehead developed the first successful torpedo and demonstrated it in 1867. This initial version of the torpedo runs with compressed air and has a range of seven hundred meters at seven knots – thirteen kilometers per hour. (1 knot = 1.85 kilometers.)

In 1889, engineers upgraded the original torpedo, which doubled its range and quadrupled its speed. However, its accuracy was still unsatisfactory even after the improvements made. This downfall led to the development of a new feature called the gyroscopic stabilizers.

During World War II, several countries developed their versions of the original artillery. They were roughly six meters (twenty feet) long arid fifty-four centimeters (twenty-one inches) in diameters, had a speed of forty-five knots, a maximum range of 4.5 kilometers, and carried nearly 270 kilograms of high explosive.

How does torpedo work?

A torpedo is a guided missile that flies underwater.  This weapon to function correctly, it consists of a propulsion system, guidance device, and an explosive device.

Older versions of the torpedo have a downfall when it comes to its movement underwater. Since air contains 78% nitrogen, an inert gas that is insoluble in water, it would leave a trail of bubbles behind a bursting torpedo. This streak of white foam could be easily recognized by the target ships, which allows it to take evasive actions.

Interestingly, engineers developed a way to eliminate this disadvantage after many years. It became possible during the introduction of battery-driven electric motors to replace the air propellant system.

Modern versions of the torpedo consist of a warhead, battery, motor, propeller, and rudder. Most of these models include a sophisticated wire-guided system – alternatively, an acoustic homing device.

Most of the time, submarines and ships launch this underwater warhead and can have a range of fifty kilometers or more. Aside from this, there are several other variants of the original torpedo – classified intolightweight and heavyweight classes, as well as straight-running autonomous homers and wire-guided.

The evolution of torpedoes went a long way from its original designs. We can see its military effectiveness in different historical accounts in our world. This invention continues to gain improvements thanks to various scientists and engineers who contribute to the creation of such weapons.