Torpedo, The Complete History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon

B2162

There are very few weapons that changed military conduct and changed the balance of power at a stroke. The spear and the sword were important weapons, but they evolved relatively slowly over centuries. The club and the fire hardened spear were important to human development because they increased the success of hunting and improved the food supply. When shaped flint was added to create very sharp stabbing and cutting surfaces, they advanced the development of spear and sword. The discovery of copper, and then of iron, made these weapons considerably more effective, but their basic use differed little. Siege engines were battle changing weapons and the longbow challenged the armoured knight so effectively that small English armies were able to take on much larger French armies with mounted knights and win. Gunpowder was a battle changing discovery and the development of cartridge ammunition made the machine-gun possible, leading to a complete change in the nature of battle by 1914. The aircraft was a fundamental step forward, as was aerial bombardment and the introduction of nuclear weapons. However, the torpedo still stands out as revolutionary weapon. The author has produced a memorable book to match the subject, providing a complete history and including a large number of illustrations, many of which are rare. The book will obviously appeal to every enthusiast and historian as a unique reference work, but it will also appeal to a much wider audience. An excellent account of an outstanding weapon system.

The author has produced a very detailed history and this book will become a reference standard in its class.

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NAME: Torpedo, The Complete History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon
DATE: 180315
FILE: R2162
AUTHOR: Roger Branfill-Cook
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Seaforth
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 256
PRICE: £35.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: torpedo, locomotive torpedo, torpedo boat, torpedo boat destroyer, air-launched torpedo, submarine, torpedo bomber, convoys, U-boat, merchant ships
ISBN: 978-1-84832-215-8
IMAGE: B2162.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/oxqmkl5
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: There are very few weapons that changed military conduct and changed the balance of power at a stroke. The spear and the sword were important weapons, but they evolved relatively slowly over centuries. The club and the fire hardened spear were important to human development because they increased the success of hunting and improved the food supply. When shaped flint was added to create very sharp stabbing and cutting surfaces, they advanced the development of spear and sword. The discovery of copper, and then of iron, made these weapons considerably more effective, but their basic use differed little. Siege engines were battle changing weapons and the longbow challenged the armoured knight so effectively that small English armies were able to take on much larger French armies with mounted knights and win. Gunpowder was a battle changing discovery and the development of cartridge ammunition made the machine-gun possible, leading to a complete change in the nature of battle by 1914. The aircraft was a fundamental step forward, as was aerial bombardment and the introduction of nuclear weapons. However, the torpedo still stands out as revolutionary weapon. The author has produced a memorable book to match the subject, providing a complete history and including a large number of illustrations, many of which are rare. The book will obviously appeal to every enthusiast and historian as a unique reference work, but it will also appeal to a much wider audience. An excellent account of an outstanding weapon system.

The torpedo goes back almost to the availability of explosives. Gunpowder was used in the 16th Century as an addition to combustible material to convert a vessel into a fire ship. In that form, a type of torpedo was created and presented a major threat to any group of warships moored at sea or in harbour. It could also claim to be an unmanned locomotive torpedo, although it was entirely at the mercy of wind and tide which could become unfavourable. As a result, the spar torpedo was developed and may have been in occasional use from the 17th Century, often attached to a pinnace or cutter. The weakness of the spar torpedo was that the vessel carrying it had to aim to ram the target vessel and the damage to the attacker could be as great as to the target. The early submarines all used some form of torpedo as a primary armament, although the purist may argue that they only carried explosives in much the same way as the British X-craft of WWII which carried two explosive charges that were armed and dropped under an enemy warship. There were also attempts at towed torpedoes that were explosives towed across an enemy and exploded on contact. Again, some will argue that this type of weapon was really a mine. Robert Fulton (1804-1813) tried all of these concepts with his submarine designs.

The challenge to locomotive torpedo developers lay in the need for a suitable engine and fuel supply and the need for a system to regulate the depth and direction of travel of the torpedo. The first successful locomotive torpedo was that developed by Whitehead in the 1860s at Fiume. Whitehead was an effective engineer and he decided to take a fresh approach, rather than attempt to develop any of the earlier technologies. The result was a giant leap forward. His first torpedoes are recognizable today. They were metal construction with a close-cycle engine, tail propeller and a nose mounted warhead that would detonate on impact. There was a depth-keeping gear that provide stability during the attack run. The design was such a huge step forward that it became widely copied, but with each producer introducing refinements.

The next major development was the electric torpedo that did not leave a trail of bubbles. There were also many developments in the arming and detonation of torpedoes. This was to include magnetic and acoustic detonators. There were also developments in the control systems, including torpedoes that were intended to spiral until they made contact with a target. Then wire-guided torpedoes were added to the range of weapons, but the most common torpedo is still remarkably similar to Whitehead’s early devices.

On its own, the locomotive torpedo is very limited in its use. It needs a launching system and a host vehicle. It is possible to fire a torpedo from a tube on a land mount, but to be most effective, it requires a vehicle. This is what made the locomotive torpedo such a game-changing weapon system. A very small vessel with a crew of less than five could carry a single torpedo and threaten an armoured battleship. That completely changed the balance of power and the economics of naval warfare. Suddenly, a very low cost vessel, crew and torpedo could potentially challenge and destroy the mightiest warship with a crew of hundreds and a build cost of millions. For this reason, the Royal Navy held very mixed feeling about the torpedo. They could not afford to overlook the weapon but, as the greatest navy, they had the most to lose from this new weapon.

The development of viable submarines took the torpedo to its next threat level. The submarine was a more expensive vessel than the small fast surface torpedo boats, but they could creep up to an anchorage and fire at anchored warships, or make a stealthy approach into a firing position against warships and merchant ships at sea and underway.

The next threat level was reached a month before the outbreak of WWI, when a Royal Naval Air Service seaplane successfully dropped a torpedo from the air. This again reduced the cost of men and machines with a single or two seat biplane being able to carry a torpedo to attack any size of warship, with the aircraft launch vehicle able to travel significantly faster than the target vessel. The ability developed by the Royal Navy to carry aircraft onboard ships and to fly off and land on these early aircraft carriers introduced not only a system effective against warships in general sea battles, but to also carry out strategic attacks on shore facilities and fleets in harbour.

The final develop of the torpedo was reached when nuclear warheads were developed, raising the destructive power of the torpedo dramatically. Alongside that development, torpedoes have continued to be developed in size and propulsive power, with computers increasing intelligence and providing ever more accurate firing.

The author has produced a very detailed history and this book will become a reference standard in its class.

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