Torpedo plane

Torpedo plane or simply torpedo : it is a special type of bomber plane designed to attack ships and submarines with the use of torpedoes .


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  • 1 History
    • 1 Germany
    • 2 Italy
    • 3 United States
    • 4 Japan
  • 2 Bibliography


Since the 28 July as as 1914 it was launched the first torpedo from seaplane Short 184 did not stop the experiments and tests for use torpedoes from airplanes. The 28 of July of 1914 Lieutenant Longmore AM (later Air Marshal), made from a seaplane Short 184 , the first successful launch of a torpedo to sink a Turkish merchant’s 5,000 tons.

The first plane to make a torpedo attack on Short 184

In the beginning the torpedo weight was excessive for use from airplanes. The airplanes could carry up to 300 kilos in bombs, so the more than 700 kilos that weighed the torpedoes at that time made the tests virtually unfeasible or unreliable. This led to experimentation with more powerful engines for airplanes destined to use the torpedo as a weapon.

The first torpedo boats began to carry smaller than usual torpedoes, usually shorter and smaller in diameter than those used on surface vessels (533mm.). These special torpedoes were no more than 450 mm, even smaller diameters, just over 400 mm. The range of these torpedoes (about 1800 meters) was lower than their counterparts for ships and their effectiveness was achieved when launched from approximately 1000 meters.


Since 1932 the Germans and more specifically the Kriegsmarine, had developed their torpedoes after acquiring Horten’s patents to Norway ( 1933 ) and Whitehead Fiume a

The Luftwaffe created a research center and soon obtained results, concluding that Heinkel He 111 and Junker Ju-88 were the most suitable aircraft to carry out missions such as torpedo boats, especially Ju 88 because of their greater speed and whose model was Ju 188 E-2. He 115 was also considered in some cases. The lack of torpedoes at the end of 1941 caused naval operations with torpedoes to be suspended.

A Heinkel was manufactured for these purposes, the Heinkel He 111 H-6 , which could carry two torpedoes. Such torpedoes would be those commonly used. Torpedoes and airplanes were used to attack convoys that were targeting Murmansk and Arkangeslk also carried out attacks in other areas such as the Mediterranean.

Bottom view of Heinkel He 111 H-6 carrying two torpedoes ready to take off

The attack system was called “Golden Comb.” During the action the planes approached in formation and separated from each other, at an angle perpendicular to the course of the target. The tactic (favored by training and approach) was to enter into the convoy launching its torpedoes from a distance of 1000 meters at a height of about 35 to 40 meters and following a horizontal and stable path to favor the entry of the torpedo into the water at 12º, to begin to take height as soon as it passes over the attacked ship. The escape maneuver was followed by strong movements to avoid the large anti-aircraft fire launched by the ships.

The torpedoes generally used by German aviation were: LT F5 / 6 of 450 mm. (17.7 inches) and approximately between 180 and 220 kilos of explosive; Whitehead Fiume LT F5W similar to the previous one; LT F5b German torpedo unreliable because in impacts with very sharp angles it usually bounced without exploding, was rejected by the crews; and the Withehead Fiume LT 5FGW; all of them similar in terms of measures and amount of explosive.


They used preferably the SM 79 Sparviero bomber and usually the torpedo was the Whitehead Fiume LT in any of its models and the almost usual size of all the torpedoes used in 450 mm aviation. (17.7 inches)

Torpedero Savoia Marcheti SM 79 with two torpedoes


They built the Douglas TBD Devastator ( 1937 ) as a bomber-torpedo with a powerful engine that allowed them to carry a 500 kilos bomb or a 900 kilos torpedo. Later the Americans designed the Grumman TBF Avenger ( 1942 ) also used as a shortstop.

At first the torpedoes used by the US torpedoes. They were the Mark XIII-1 A type also known as the Leavit Bliss, possibly the largest diameter torpedo for aircraft with its 569 mm. (22.4 inches) and almost 4 meters long with a weight of 1380 kilos and a load at the beginning of about 200 kilos, later increased to just over 300 kilos. The Bliss Leavit had many failures in its beginning and in its first operations it had to be launched from less than 30 meters, the higher it broke or bounced out of the water. It was modified in 1944and he was endowed with a ring around the fins. After the modifications it turned out to be a good torpedo for aviation as it could be launched at an airplane speed of 519 kilometers per hour and at a height of up to 244 meters. This gave a certain advantage to Avenger torpedo planes over other types of aircraft, which they had to launch at a very low height, never exceeding 30 meters and at very low speed, never exceeding 205 kilometers per hour. Land-based generally used the North American B-25 Mitchell as a torpedo that used the Mark XIII torpedo and as an ocean patrol and anti-ship seaplane the Consolidated PBY Catalina was also equipped with Mark XIII torpedoes.

Torpedero Grumman TBF Avenger with two torpedoes.


They used Nakajima B5N Kate as embarked aircraft as a torpedo in the beginning, Nakajima B6N Tenzan and Mitsubishi G3M and Mitsubishi G4M being his successor as land based torpedoes.

The torpedoes used by Japanese aircraft were usually the Type 91 developed from the famous Long Lance. The diameter was 450 mm. (17.7 inches) and several models were built (from 1 to 7) the load ranged from 150 kilos of explosive for model 1 to 450 kilos for model 7. The B5N used for its attack on Pearl Harbor type torpedoes 95 of 533 mm. (21 inches) modified, that had some boards attached to prevent them from sinking too much and that by the shallow depth they crashed against the bottom


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