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British 18-inch torpedo

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18-inch Mark XII
Royal Air Force Coastal Command, 1939-1945. CH9765.jpg
A Mark XII torpedo fitted to a Bristol Beaufighter
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1937-1945
Production history
Mass1,548 lb (702 kg)
Length16 ft 3 in (4.95 m)
Diameter17.72 in (450 mm)

Warhead weight388 lb (176 kg)

EngineBurner cycle
140 hp (at 40 knots)
Maximum speed 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph) for 1,500 yd (1,400 m) or
37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph) for 3,500 yd (3,200 m)

There have been a number of 18-inch torpedoes in service with the United Kingdom.

These have been used on ships of the Royal Navy and aircraft of both the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force, while Royal Navy surface ships and submarines use 21-inch torpedoes.

The British "18-inch" torpedoes were 17.72 inches (45.0 cm) in diameter, beginning with the "Fiume" Whitehead torpedo of 1890.

Discover more about British 18-inch torpedo related topics



A modern torpedo is an underwater ranged weapon launched above or below the water surface, self-propelled towards a target, and with an explosive warhead designed to detonate either on contact with or in proximity to the target. Historically, such a device was called an automotive, automobile, locomotive, or fish torpedo; colloquially a fish. The term torpedo originally applied to a variety of devices, most of which would today be called mines. From about 1900, torpedo has been used strictly to designate a self-propelled underwater explosive device.

Royal Navy

Royal Navy

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is consequently known as the Senior Service.

Fleet Air Arm

Fleet Air Arm

The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) is one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy and is responsible for the delivery of naval air power both from land and at sea. The Fleet Air Arm operates the F-35 Lightning II for maritime strike and the AW159 Wildcat and AW101 Merlin for commando and anti-submarine warfare.

Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare and space force. It was formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Following the Allied victory over the Central Powers in 1918, the RAF emerged as the largest air force in the world at the time. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

British 21-inch torpedo

British 21-inch torpedo

There have been several British 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes used by the Royal Navy since their first development just before the First World War.

Whitehead torpedo

Whitehead torpedo

The Whitehead torpedo was the first self-propelled or "locomotive" torpedo ever developed. It was perfected in 1866 by Robert Whitehead from a rough design conceived by Giovanni Luppis of the Austro-Hungarian Navy in Fiume. It was driven by a three-cylinder compressed-air engine invented, designed, and made by Peter Brotherhood. Many naval services procured the Whitehead torpedo during the 1870s, including the US Navy. This early torpedo proved itself in combat during the Russo-Turkish War when, on 16 January 1878, the Ottoman ship Intibah was sunk by Russian torpedo boats carrying Whiteheads, though this story has been disputed in one book.

45 cm "Fiume" (Whitehead) torpedo

First introduced into British service in 1894.[1]

  • Year : about 1888
  • Weight : 845 lb (383 kg)
  • Length : 11 ft 8 in (3.56 m)
  • Warhead : 118 lb (54 kg) wet gun-cotton
  • Performance : 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph) for 800 yd (730 m)
  • Propulsion : Compressed air

Mark V

Used on the River-class and 1905 Tribal-class destroyers.

  • Year : about 1899[1]
  • Weight : 1,353 lb (614 kg)
  • Warhead : 296 lb (134 kg) including pistol
  • Propulsion : Compressed air

Mark VI

Used on destroyers of the early 1900s.

  • Year : about 1904[1]
  • Performance : 28.5 knots (52.8 km/h; 32.8 mph) for 4,000 yd (3,700 m) or 41 knots (76 km/h; 47 mph) for 1,000 yd (910 m)
  • Propulsion : Compressed air

Mark VII and VII*

Introduced on the 1908 members of the 1905 Tribal class destroyers. Used by torpedo boats built before the First World War and destroyers. Used by RAF flying boats in the 1920s.

  • Year : 1907[1]
  • Warhead : 320 lb (150 kg) TNT
  • Performance :
    • Mark VII :
      30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) for 6,000–7,000 yd (5,500–6,400 m)
      41 knots (76 km/h; 47 mph) for 3,000 yd (2,700 m)
    • Mark VII* :
      29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph) for 7,000 yd (6,400 m)
      35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) for 5,000 yd (4,600 m)
  • Propulsion : Wet-heater


  • Year: 1913
  • Role: Submarines and aircraft (Note: During World War II and after the Mk.VIII was a 21-inch torpedo)
  • Warhead: 320 lb (150 kg) TNT
  • Propulsion: Wet heater
  • Performance: 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) for 2,500 yd (2,300 m)

Mark XI

  • Year: 1934
  • Aircraft carried
  • Dimensions: 17.72 in (450 mm) dia.
  • Warhead: 465 lb (211 kg) TNT
  • Propulsion: Burner cycle
  • Performance: 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) for 2,500 yd (2,300 m)

Mark XII

Aircraft launched, used by Fleet Air Arm and RAF Coastal Command.

Mark XIV

The Mark XIV was an aircraft-launched torpedo. Stocks were lost with the fall of Singapore.

Mark XV

  • Year: 1942
  • Operators: Fleet Air Arm, RAF Coastal Command, Royal Navy
  • Role: Aircraft and Motor Torpedo Boats, 1943 onwards
  • Dimensions: 17.69 in (449 mm) × 17 ft 2.7 in (5.250 m)
  • Warhead: 545 lb (247 kg) Torpex
  • Propulsion: Burner cycle
  • Performance: 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph) for 2,500 yd (2,300 m) or 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph) for 3,200 yd (2,900 m)[2]

Mark XVI

Electric torpedo project not completed.


  • United Kingdom, 1944
  • Aircraft launched
  • Operated by FAA, RAF Coastal Command, Blackburn Firebrand
  • Dimensions: 17.72 in (450 mm) × 17 ft 3 in (5.26 m)
  • Warhead: 600 lb (270 kg) Torpex
  • Propulsion: Burner cycle
  • Performance: 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph) for 2,500 yd (2,300 m)

Mark 30

Mk 30 Torpedo
Mk 30 Torpedo

An air-dropped passive acoustic homing torpedo known as "Dealer" and "Dealer B".[3]

  • Length: 8 ft (2.4 m)[4]
  • Weight: 646 lb (293 kg)
  • Performance: 12.5 knots (23.2 km/h; 14.4 mph) for 3,000 yd (2,700 m) or 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) for 830 yd (760 m)

Source: "British 18-inch torpedo", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, December 4th),

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  1. ^ a b c d "British Torpedoes Pre-World War II". Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  2. ^ Campbell, John (2002). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
  3. ^ "British Torpedoes after World War II". Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Mk 30 Torpedo". Retrieved 7 July 2010.
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