Thursday, August 13, 2015

WW1: Aerial Torpedoes

Artist rendition of aerial torpedo bombing circa WW1

The airplane opened up completely new settings and battlefields in warfare. American Rear Admiral Fiske received a patent in 1912 for an aerial-launched torpedo. It could be carried on the underside of airplanes and dropped into the water, acting like a normal torpedo. Fiske explained that airplane-delivered torpedoes allowed for attacks on ships in their harbors, expanding the possibilities for attack and changing the size and variability of "the battlefield". The U.S. Navy was not interested in Fiske’s idea. America was not in the war, and had a tiny little military at the time. The British were intrigued with the idea and immediately began experimenting. 
British ingenuity led to the development of a torpedo-carrying seaplane: the Short Type 184. The HMS Ben-my-Chree, was altered to carry such seaplanes. In April 1915, it carried two prototypes for the Gallipoli invasion. On August 12th 1915, the torpedo bomber made its introduction. With it, the dawn of the aircraft carrier age began and the coming death of the battleship was announced.
A Short Type 184 flown by Commander Charles Edmonds took off in the Aegean Sea with one 810lb torpedo. Edmonds flew over land to the Sea of Marmara, where he sank a Turkish supply ship. Less than a week later he sank another ship. The success of the aerial torpedo prompted the Royal Navy to continue developing new sorts of torpedo aircraft. This led Germany and other navies to scramble to catch up to this new development. Rear Admiral Fiske's patent would within thirty years be used against the American navy in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

1 comment:

ivvenalis said...

It's impossible for me to imagine a modern officer of that level (a line officer, at that!) engaging in any sort of technical innovation. Their every waking moment is invariably filled with various meetings and teleconferences.