Nomenclature

Before and during World War II

Propulsion
D Dampftorpedo
(wet heater, World War I)
a Air/steam
(wet heater, World War II)
e Electric
u Hydrogen peroxide
Diameter
F 45 cm
G 50 or 53.3 cm
H 60 cm
J 70 cm
M 75 cm

German Torpedos manufactured prior to the end of World War II were designated as to their diameter, length and propulsion. Modifications were usually, but not always, denoted by T numbers. Length was to the nearest meter.

For example, the designation G7e T2 meant that the torpedo was 53.3 cm (21") in diameter, was about 7 meters long, had an electric motor and was the second modification to the original design.

The outfit for U-Boats was at least four electric torpedoes for every wet-heater while surface ships used only wet-heaters. Schnellbootes (E-boats) used primarily wet-heaters, although electrics were also issued.

Italian torpedoes used by the Germans were denoted by the manufacturer, w for Whitehead (Fiume) and i for Silurificio Italiano (Naples).

During World War II, over sixty different torpedo designs were tested, 16 using hydrogen peroxide as an oxidant. Monthly production rose from 70 before the war to 1,000 by the spring of 1941, to a peak of 1,700 in 1943 and then fell to 1,400 during 1944. Total production of 53.3 cm (21") torpedoes was about 70,000. However, not counting those expended for testing, destroyed in bombed depots or lost in sunken ships, wartime expenditures were just over 10,000 of which about 7,000 were electric G7e, 2,300 wet-heater G7a and 640 electric acoustic homing T5 (Zaunkönig 1). Manufacturing took place at Deutsche Weke Kiel, Julius Pintsche Berlin, Auto-Union Zwickau, Borgward Bremen and Planeta Dresden.

Post-World War II

German torpedoes are named after sea animals.

Engines

Pre-World War II

Most German torpedoes designed before 1906 used three-cylinder radial engines based upon the Brotherhood system, which used compressed air as a power source. Later versions used a Brotherhood four-cylinder central crank engine which had increased power.

After 1906, German designs used wet-heater motors. These pre-heated the air being fed into the engine, significantly increasing the range of the torpedo.

World War II

During World War II, submarines generally carried electric motor torpedoes, as these made little noise and were essentially wakeless. Surface ships did not use these as it was felt that the shock of the torpedo hitting the water would rupture the batteries. Instead, surface ships used wet-heater engines notable for using Decalin (decahydronaphthalene) instead of kerosene for fuel. Much research was performed upon hydrogen peroxide fuels during World War II, but no torpedo using this fuel ever entered service.

Post-World War II

Post-war designs rely upon silver-zinc batteries for power.

Warhead Explosives

World War I

The standard explosive charge was 60% TNT and 40% hexanitrodiphenylamine in blocks. This had first been developed by the Germans in 1907 and was very resistant to shock. This explosive was about 7% more powerful than 100% TNT.

World War II

SW1850% TNT, 24% HND, 15% Aluminum
SW3667% TNT, 8% HND, 25% Aluminum
SW3945% TNT, 5% HND, 30% Amonium Nitrate, 20% Aluminum
SW39a50% TNT, 10% HND, 5% Amonium Nitrate, 35 % Aluminum
HNDHexanitrodiphenylamine

Warhead Pistols

The failure of the German Magnetic Pistol and backup striker gear during World War II is well known. The Magnetic Pistol was withdrawn in 1940 and did not reappear until 1943.

However, Italian aerial torpedoes with a different kind of magnetic pistol were used by the Germans throughout the war.

The best of the German Magnetic Pistols was the TZ5 used in the T5 torpedo. It was basically a metal detector with two coils. An improved model TZ6 could be fitted to any 21" (53.3 cm) torpedo but was only approved for use as the war ended.

Most torpedoes used whisker-type impact pistols, but these could not be used on homing torpedoes. Instead, homing torpedoes used an inertial pistol located at the rear of the warhead.

Sources

Data from:

  • "Naval Weapons of World War Two" by John Campbell
  • "Naval Weapons of World War One" by Norman Friedman
  • "German Destroyers of World War Two" and "German Cruisers of World War Two" both by M.J. Whitley

Page History

21 April 2006 - Benchmark

03 September 2012 - Added definition