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Donald C Meadows

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Member Since: Jul, 2006

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The Truth About Torpedoes
by Donald C Meadows   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, July 28, 2006
Posted: Friday, July 28, 2006

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A basic lesson in modern undersea weapons (Unclassified version of course)

My novel OF ICE AND STEEL would not be very interesting without torpedoes. Much has been written about the use of torpedoes, and there seems to be a facination with these weapons. Ask yourself; what is the first thing you think about when you see a submarine novel or movie.  Chances are it is the torpedo.

While I served on the submarines I was a Torpedoman. I spent many years working with these things and they are indeed a wonder of science, mechanics, engineering, and well they are just damn cool.

Here is a little information on torpedoes I hope you find interesting and informative.

The main submarine launched torpedo in the United States Navy is the MK-48 ADCAP (Advanced Capability)  This is a deep diving, long range, acoustic homing, wire guided weapon. It is propelled through the sea by a six cylinder external combustion engine.  Now what does all that mean?

Deep Diving- This is classified, but I will tell you it goes deep enough.

Long Range- See above.

Acoustic Homing- Now here we go. Acoustic homing means this weapon can listen for nosise that a target makes or it can go active. Active means it sends out a pulse of sound energy and listens for the echo. When a signal is heard the weapon will evaluate it and decide if it matches the needed criteria for a legitimate target. If it thinks this is the target the weapon will steer toward the signal. If the signal is lost the weapon will perform manuvers to re-aquire the nosie and again home in. Now you ask what if the torpedo hears the firing or mother ship?  There are built in safety devices in the engine and the warhead that makes this almost impossible. Can the torpedo be fooled? I guess it could, but the programing in the weapon takes into account the possibility of decoys.  If the weapon is somehow fooled then we have the next part.

Wire Guided- A small wire feeds from a spool inside the torpedo. This wire is connected to the ships fire control system and feeds the torpedo any course, speed, angle changed needed. The torpedo can also talk to the fire control system. Pretty cool stuff.

The business end is of course the warhead. Now in World War Two torpedoes had to hit the ship inorder to cause damage. What was discovered was that a direct hit wasted the explosive force of the warhead.  In modern torpedoes the warhead generates a magnetic field, which surrounds the warhead. When the acoustics verify the target is really the target the warhead arms. When the torpedo passes under or near the target the magnetic field is disrupted. This disruption causes the firing of the warhead. So the torpedo explodes under the ship or submarine.

What good is that? Think of it like a Judo match. The torpedo is using the ship's own weight to kill it. When the weapon detonates under the ship two things happen. First the water that supports the ship in the center is blown away. This causes a sudden flex in the steel of the ship. Second a superheated blast of steam and plasma thrusts upward, again flexing the ship in the opposite way.  The reult is the ship breaks in two.

Now if we are after a submarine, the physics change a bit. When the warhead detonates the explosive force seeks the path of least reistance. That path is the hull of the enemy sub. It is easier for the explosion to split the steel than the surrounding ocean.

So now you are all basic Torpedomen.  I'll be doing more on other undersea weapons soon.  Be sure to read OF ICE AND STEEL, to see some weapons in action.      

Web Site: Leather Neck Publishing

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Reviewed by Jim Parsons 10/3/2006
Fascinating stuff. Have wandered about your site and enjoyed it. You mentioned how we are, as kids in the movie theatres, fascinated by torpedos...yes, I loved submarine movies. You forgot to mention that ping ping noise of the sonar! Is THAT for real or a moviemaker's invention? Did the movie see the light of day - if so, under what title? Cheers, Jim from Oz
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader) 7/30/2006
Very, very interesting. I wish your book much success.

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