Sivut kuvina


June 3, 1890.
Rear-admiral L. A. Kimberly, U. S. N, in the Chair.

Bv E. W. Very, of the Hotchkiss Ordnance Company.


The Intrinsic Value Of The Torpedo As A Weapon Of Offense.

In popular discussions of the value of the torpedo as a weapon of offense, it very frequently occurs that the objective feature of the weapon is lost sight of, or becomes confused with the condition of its development, so that, because with any particular type the results hitherto obtained have been but moderately successful, doubt is expressed as to the intrinsic value of the weapon, and it is even a commonly expressed opinion that sooner or later some form of ordnance capable of discharging large quantities of a high explosive will entirely replace all torpedoes except perhaps fixed mines for the defense of channels.

In naval warfare the torpedo is as distinct a class of weapon and is as independent of all ordnance development as is the "arme blanche" (such as the bayonet, sword, etc.) from the fire-arm in military warfare. The invention of fire-arms created no new objective feature of warfare, but simply provided a means of meeting a necessity that had always existed. During the first period of the introduction of fire-arms as infantry weapons, the line of battle consisted of ranks of arquebus men and ranks of pikemen. The distinct objective features of the two weapons were confided to different corps. The invention of the bayonet enabled one corps to fulfill both features, but neither this consolidation nor any improvement, from the matchlock to the magazine rifle, or from the pike to the sword-bayonet, has in the least degree affected the objective features themselves, nor have improvements in one weapon lessened the necessity for the possession of the other.

Precisely the same conditions exist in naval warfare between ordnance and torpedoes. The former class of weapons is and can only be devoted to the attack of the above-water portions of a vessel, whilst the latter is as exclusively devoted to the under-water body. As ordnance has developed in power, the engines, boilers, steeringgear, magazines and other vital elements of fighting power have been driven for safety to the under-water body, for it is there that the defense is the strongest and the offense the weakest. To leave the attack of the under-water body out of consideration simply because hitherto the development of the torpedo has been but extremely limited, is to omit a fundamental principle of offensive tactics. It has been only one hundred years since Bushnell invented the torpedo. He created no new objective feature any more than did the inventor of the arquebus. It required Cushing's attack on the Albemarle to convince the world that the feature not only existed, but was of prime importance, and from that day the development of the weapon that shall most effectively fulfill that feature has been unceasing, and in the very nature of naval warfare will continue to be.

The torpedo, as a naval weapon of offense, is a permanent weapon, and no ordnance development, no matter what be its nature, can in the slightest degree affect its existence.


As in the general discussion of the value of torpedoes, the absolute necessity for the existence of the weapon loses appreciation from confusing it with considerations of the state of development, so in the discussion of development, a failure to properly distinguish the natural classification leads to confusion in the attempt to compare different types.

It would be manifestly absurd to attempt to compare directly and generally a magazine rifle with a field gun, or a field gun with a mortar. Quite as distinct a classification exists amongst torpedoes. Fixed mines have a certain special field of action within which they are undoubtedly superior to torpedoes designed for other fields. Torpedoes that are propelled and guided from a fixed point, with which they are in some manner constantly connected, have also their distinct field. Torpedoes that may be classed under the head of purely naval torpedoes occupy a field of their own, for they are required to be effective in waters of an indefinite depth and under all conditions of movement of the point of discharge.

Considering only this general classification of the naval torpedo, it will be found that, as represented by development, the different types come naturally under one of the three following subdivisions:

1st. The fixed torpedo, carried and used by a vessel at a fixed and very limited distance from it, such as the Spar and the Towing torpedoes.

2d. The semi-automobile torpedo, which upon discharge is independent of the vessel, but which for range is dependent upon the force of projection, and which lacks a complete development of directive force, such as the projectile from the submarine gun.

3d. The automobile torpedo, which, independently of the vessel and irrespective of the means of discharge, maintains its speed by self-contained motive power, and its depth and direction by self-contained directive power.

These subdivisions are developments the one from the other in the order above given, and that the higher development has not rendered the lower one obsolete is due entirely to incompleteness of development. The "bag of powder on the end of the pole " so ably handled by Cushing is clearly but of a most limited efficiency, since it can scarcely be used beyond a distance of fifty feet; yet it is not entirely obsolete, because certain features which it possesses within that distance are as yet not as certainly assured in the higher developments. The projectile ejected from the submarine gun possesses elements of great simplicity, but it needs but a cursory examination to show that it is an inferior development to the automobile torpedo, for it depends upon the force of ejection entirely for its speed and range; but precisely the same force may be applied in precisely the same way to the automobile torpedo, producing exactly the same result. The automobile torpedo, however, possesses, in addition and entirely independent of this force of ejection, an inherent propulsive and directive force, which is so much clear gain over the submarine projectile, and any attempt whatever to increase range and accuracy of the latter can only be obtained through an approach to the automobile condition. Therefore the automobile torpedo is the highest (not necessarily the best perfected) development of the naval torpedo.


The velocity, range and accuracy of all automobile torpedoes thus far developed are almost incomparably inferior to those of ordnance projectiles, and on this account it is frequently argued that under present fighting conditions it would be very exceptional that the condition would occur where, in action, the torpedo could be used with a reasonable chance of success. This argument is upheld by the evidence (undoubtedly true) that in the wars which have occurred since 1875, at which date the automobile torpedo became a practicable weapon, the results obtained have but a negative value. That is, whilst they may have shown possibilities of future development, there has been no instance of positive success.

That this argument is erroneous is readily susceptible of proof.

1st. We have the undoubted fact that, in spite of all failures and in the face of immense expenditures, every navy in the world not only has made strenuous efforts to develop the automobile torpedo, but the demand for this weapon and the efforts to improve it have steadily increased since the commencement, now nearly twenty years ago. Precisely as with the change from the smooth-bore to the rifled gun, from the muzzle to the breech-loader, from the cast-iron to the built-up steel gun, there is more than a simple novelty involved. The development of the automobile torpedo must go forward, for it is universally and truthfully regarded as an accessory of armament absolutely necessary. It is only necessary to go back thirty years to find the same argument used against iron-clads, or twenty-five years to find it against breech-loading ordnance, or ten years to find it against magazine rifles. The automobile torpedo is as irresistible a development as either of these.

2d. It is conceded by naval tacticians that the general fighting range in naval action will be within seven hundred yards. The automobile torpedo has, within the past five years, been so developed as to become more than a fairly efficient weapon at that range.

3d. It is the automobile torpedo, and that alone, that has forced into existence the worst hamper to effective naval fighting yet known. The net. There is, perhaps, no argument so common against the automobile torpedo as that it is useless because the net will keep it clear of the ship, and yet none is more fallacious. With precisely the same truth might it be said that guns were useless, because armor would keep out projectiles. All naval sea-going vessels now carry nets as a part of their defensive equipment. No commander would use his net in action, knowing that his opponent did not carry automobile torpedoes, and every commander will use his net, knowing that the enemy carries them. A commander without an automobile torpedo, no matter how crude, must hamper himself with a net, whilst he leaves his opponent not only unencumbered, but with a weapon capable on a chance of deciding an action at a single shot. The conclusion is inevitable. No weapon can replace the torpedo or affect its existence and development, because to the torpedo alone belongs the attack of the under-water body. Of the naval torpedoes as above defined, the automobile is the highest class of development. Types may be more or less efficient, and the sole reason for the Whitehead torpedo having been universally accepted with all its faults is because it has hitherto been the only practicable type. Valid arguments may be made against the Whitehead, or any other type of automobile torpedo. But none whatever can be made against the automobile torpedo "sui generis."


The first successful type of automobile torpedo developed was the Whitehead, whose only competitor heretofore has been the Schwartzkopf, which really possesses no type difference. A distinct rival in type to the Whitehead is the Howell, and in following the discussion of the merits of type differences between these rivals, it is necessary to keep constantly in mind the fundamental definition of an automobile torpedo, which is: one that, independently of the vessel and irrespective of the means of discharge, maintains its speed by self-contained motive power, and its depth and direction by selfcontained directive power.

In both the Whitehead and the Howell types the speed is maintained by the action of screw propellers. In the Whitehead the screws are actuated by an engine, whose motive power is compressed air, which is carried in a tank in the torpedo, feeding the air to the engine as a boiler feeds steam to an ordinary engine. In the Howell the screws are actuated by a heavy fly-wheel, without the interposition of an engine, the energy of the fly-wheel being the motive force. In this difference of application of motive power appears the first marked contrast of type.

The Howell contains no engine, and thus gains a very important

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