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A modern torpedo is a self-propelled guided projectile that operates underwater and is designed to detonate on contact or in proximity to a target.

In naval usage, the term "torpedo" was first used in the American Civil War to refer to tethered naval mines (developed by Matthew F. Maury, a Confederate Admiral). Around 1897, Nikola Tesla patented a remote controlled boat and later demonstrate the feasibility of radio-guided torpedoes to the United States military. Radio remote controlled torpedoes remained uninvestigated until the Space Age. During the World War I, torpedoes came to mean self propelled projectiles fired from a ship or submarine. Later, torpedoes were given (homing) guidance systems.

Torpedoes are weapons that may be launched from submarines, surface ships, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and from unmanned naval mines. They are also used as parts of other weapons; the Mark 46 torpedo used by the United States becomes the warhead section of the ASROC (Anti-Submarine ROCket) and the Captor mine uses a submerged sensor platform that releases a torpedo when a hostile contact is detected. The three major torpedoes in the US Navy inventory are the Mark 48 heavyweight torpedo, the Mark 46 lightweight and the Mark 50 advanced lightweight.

Table of contents
1 Torpedoes used by the U.S. Navy
2 Etymology (needs moving)
3 External Links

Torpedoes used by the U.S. Navy

Mark 48 Torpedo

The Mk-48 is designed to combat fast, deep-diving nuclear submarines and high performance surface ships. It is carried by all U.S. Navy submarines. The improved version, Mk-48 ADCAP, is carried by attack submarines, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines and the Seawolf-class attack submarines. The Mk-48 replaced both the Mk-37 and Mk-14 torpedoes. The Mk-48 has been operational since 1972. Mk-48 ADCAP became operational in 1988 and was approved for full production in 1989.

Mk-48 and Mk-48 ADCAP torpedoes can operate with or without wire guidance and use active or passive homing. When launched they execute programmed target search, acquisition and attack procedures. Both can conduct multiple reattacks if they miss the target. The MK-46 torpedo is designed to be launched from surface combatant torpedo tubes, ASROC missiles and fixed and rotary wing aircraft. In 1989, a major upgrade program began to enhance the performance of the Mk-46 Mod 5 in shallow water. Weapons incorporating these improvements are identified as Mod 5A and Mod 5A(S).

General Characteristics, Mk-48, Mk-48 (ADCAP)

Mark 46 Torpedo

The Mk-46 torpedo is designed to attack high performance submarines, and is the current NATO standard. The Mk-46 Mod 5 torpedo is the backbone of the U.S. Navy's lightweight ASW torpedo inventory and is expected to remain in service until the year 2015.

General Characteristics, Mk-46 MOD 5

Mark 50 Torpedo

The Mk-50 is an advanced lightweight torpedo for use against the faster, deeper-diving and more sophisticated submarines. The Mk-50 can be launched from all ASW aircraft, and from torpedo tubes aboard surface combatant ships. The Mk-50 will eventually replace the Mk-46 as the fleet's lightweight torpedo.

General Characteristics, Mk-50

Etymology (needs moving)

After the electric ray, one of the fishes of the family Torpedinidae, having a rounded body and a pair of organs capable of producing an electric discharge, which is used to stun or kill prey. Also called crampfish and numbfish.

External Links

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Note: a slightly more recent writeup on the Mk-48 is available at