Characteristics of WW2 Air Launched torpedoes from different nations

This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules

Shortround6

Major General
20,047
12,158
Jun 29, 2009
Central Florida Highlands
The TL : DR for me is that it was pretty difficult to make a good high performance torpedo bomber in the mid-Century era, and probably only the Japanese pulled it off, their design coming too late and too big for most of their carriers.
There are few points in the TL:DR that raise the Avenger up a bit.
One is that the bomb bay in the Avenger was cavernous. The Speed for the Avenger is with the torpedo inside the bomb bay, not hanging outside. Doesn't make up for 70mph but it is worth something. Avenger could also hold four 500lb bombs inside the bomb bay, or two 1000lbs or even a single 2000lb bomb. The A7M could hold two 550lb bombs.
The vast majority of Avengers had two .50 cal guns for forward armament, not a single .30 cal.
The range given for the A7M is best case, as in carrying auxiliary fuel. Normal range was about 1000NM
Range for the Avenger is a bit short. Grumman figures say 1100 Statue miles or about 1800km while carrying a torpedo.
You could put drop tanks under the Avenger (small ones) or stick a ferry tank in the bomb bay.

There maybe problems with the Barracuda specs, I haven't looked.

Comparing a late 1944 plane (it took until the end of Aug to build eight A7Ms in 1944) to planes that were in service two years earlier does not seem like a good comparison.
 

ThomasP

Master Sergeant
2,291
3,195
Apr 17, 2017
midwest USA
Barracuda could carry 2000 lbs+ of bombs, composed of:

1x 2000 lb bomb on centerline, or
4x 500 lb bombs under wing, or
6x 250 lb bombs under wing
plus
upto 8x 20-25 lb bombs or flares on 2x LSC

Note that the Barracuda was tested by A&AEE in mid-1943, with the 2000 lb AP bomb carried on centerline.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

Staff Sergeant
1,468
603
Mar 18, 2022
There are few points in the TL:DR that raise the Avenger up a bit.
One is that the bomb bay in the Avenger was cavernous. The Speed for the Avenger is with the torpedo inside the bomb bay, not hanging outside. Doesn't make up for 70mph but it is worth something. Avenger could also hold four 500lb bombs inside the bomb bay, or two 1000lbs or even a single 2000lb bomb. The A7M could hold two 550lb bombs.
The vast majority of Avengers had two .50 cal guns for forward armament, not a single .30 cal.
The range given for the A7M is best case, as in carrying auxiliary fuel. Normal range was about 1000NM
Range for the Avenger is a bit short. Grumman figures say 1100 Statue miles or about 1800km while carrying a torpedo.
You could put drop tanks under the Avenger (small ones) or stick a ferry tank in the bomb bay.

There maybe problems with the Barracuda specs, I haven't looked.

Comparing a late 1944 plane (it took until the end of Aug to build eight A7Ms in 1944) to planes that were in service two years earlier does not seem like a good comparison.

Good data here, thanks. I don't know why they don't update the wiki on the armament.

Particularly good point about the large internal bomb bay for the TBF - this was the main reason for the enormous, bus-like size of the Avenger I believe. Having the ordinance on the inside definitely meant a higher top speed and a higher cruising speed- and better range because much less drag.

Regarding the B7A, I did mention every time I brought it up that it came too little / too late. And the first row on my little chart is the date in service - one of the strengths of the Swordfish, and proof that it was originally a very good and versatile design, is it's amazing longevity in service. (This is also sadly a condemnation of the types which came after in the FAA). Of particular significance with the swordfish is that it was (I think?) the first carrier borne aircraft to carry radar, which really enhances it's efficacy as a strike aircraft.

The B7A does have the distinction, unlike the Mauler, the AD-1 or the Spearfish, of making it to the combat zone in time to see action during the war. This is obviously one of the biggest challenges in miltiary aircraft design and production - not only creating a good design which works in the field, but doing so in time to matter. The B7A was the best wartime (theoretically) carrier capable torpedo bomber, but it was not made or deployed in enough numbers to make a difference (in part because there were so few trained aircrews available to fly it once it did arrive).

And clearly the TBF was the second best at the design level, and by far the most important carrier borne torpedo bomber during the war. It was quite an achievement not least because such a massive aircraft could be effectively deployed from tiny CVE type carriers, and still pose a real threat not just to submarines but also to surface vessels and land targets.

Second best on the Allied side was probably the Swordfish which caused real damage, particularly to the Italians and French, early in the war, and remained capable of inflicting harm on enemy shipping well into the conflict.
 
Last edited:

BlackSheep

Banned
443
461
May 31, 2018
I have read in general sense and in some specific examples about the parameters of air launched torpedoes in WW2, to the extent that I gather there was a wide range terms of the altitude and speed of the aircraft from which the torpedo was launched, as well as range and speed of the torpedo, and general notions of reliability.

Air launched torpedoes were important weapons in the early war, sinking a large number of ships. The Japanese torpedos were notoriously very good while the US were notoriously almost useless. Eventually precision guided munitions replaced both the torpedo and the dive bomber delivered bomb, but for a while these were decisive weapons.

I'm interested in the breakdown of major types.

Japanese - Type 91 perhaps the best of the war?
US Mark 13 torpedo - "failed in 70% of drops made from AC traveling faster than 170 mph"
-----------------------(supposedly, according to the Wiki by putting wooden sabots on them, this was vastly increased to 470 mph and a height of 2400 feet, but this was probably postwar)
Britain had the Mark XV and then later the Mark XVII, and finally the Torpex
I gather that the Italian made Fiume torpedoes were very good and that the Germans were using them in preference to their own. They also made a license built copy of the Japanese type 91.

The Italians also had the motobomba which could be dropped in the midst of a group of ships and would drive in a spiral until it hit something.
I know the Russians used air launched Torpedoes in the Baltic but don't know whether they were Russian made or British ?


Does anyone know what the launch altitude and speeds were for the various major torpedo types?
Agree with what you state.
In addition to all of the documented troubles with the American Mk14 torpedo such as running too deep, premature/failure to exploding, fail to run, and the crowd favorite breaking in half allowing Japanese sailors to play on the floating remains, American pilots like Ensign George Gay of Torpedo 8 stated that the majority of pilots had never flown with a torpedo ON THEIR TORPEDO BOMBER, much less launched one in practice or combat. So, you have an unreliable weapon, whose many faults overlap each other making it difficult to troubleshoot further complicated because the bean counters won’t allow tests that damaged any of the already insufficient stockpile at hand.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

Staff Sergeant
1,468
603
Mar 18, 2022
I've been reading Ehler's Mediterranean Air War and he notes that the improvement in quality of the British Torpedoes made a major difference in late 1942 and through 1943 in terms of dismal outcomes for Axis shipping. Will post some details later.
 

33k in the air

Staff Sergeant
904
1,237
Jan 31, 2021
There are few points in the TL:DR that raise the Avenger up a bit.
One is that the bomb bay in the Avenger was cavernous. The Speed for the Avenger is with the torpedo inside the bomb bay, not hanging outside. Doesn't make up for 70mph but it is worth something. Avenger could also hold four 500lb bombs inside the bomb bay, or two 1000lbs or even a single 2000lb bomb. The A7M could hold two 550lb bombs.
The vast majority of Avengers had two .50 cal guns for forward armament, not a single .30 cal.
The range given for the A7M is best case, as in carrying auxiliary fuel. Normal range was about 1000NM
Range for the Avenger is a bit short. Grumman figures say 1100 Statue miles or about 1800km while carrying a torpedo.
You could put drop tanks under the Avenger (small ones) or stick a ferry tank in the bomb bay.

Combat radius of the TBM-3 according to its Aircraft Characteristics and Performance document:

240 nautical miles with 1 x Mk 13 torpedo
425 nautical miles with 1 x Mk 13 torpedo and 2 x 100-gallon drop tanks
245 nautical miles with 1 x 1,000-lb bomb
435 nautical miles with 1 x 1,000-lb bomb and 2 x 100-gallon drop tanks
235 nautical miles with 1 x 1,000-lb bomb and 8 x 5-inch rockets

Parameters for the radius calcuations are given on page three.
 

Users who are viewing this thread