Torpedo Artifacts

For the longest time now I have been collecting rare torpedo artifacts, primarily thier propellers, guidance gyroscopes and inert fuzes. Although torpedoes may be a little off subject here, they are munitions and pretty interesting. I will post a few pics of a few gyroscopes that show some of the most spectacular engineering in thier construction and design. The addition of a gyro in a torpedo significantly improved accuracy and range. My collection spans an area from 1902 to 1970. During this time the design of the gyro has changed significantly. For example, my early Whitehead gyro is purely spring driven. As the timeline progresses, the gyro’s internal rotor is driven by both spring and air from a compresed bottle stored in the torpedo. Latter on, it became soley air driven. Now modern torpedoes utilize electric and even laser ring gyros. If you look at some of the main rotors of the gyros in the photos, you will notice that some have ported or vented rotors compaired to early models that have smooth rotors. These help trap an maximise the compresed air to spin the rotor as fast as possible. Anyhow, if thier is any interest in this, I will post more pics and better descriptions.

This is a Japanese WW2 Long Lance & Miget Sub torpedo gyroscope (AIR ONLY)

Here is a WW2 Whitehead Torpedo Gyro (Air & Spring)

This is from Argintina (Air Only)

Group of both early spring and latter spring & air Whitehead torpedo gyros

This is a German WW2 Pi3c Fuze. It is massive and weighs about 20 pounds

I’ll stop here, this is a German Pi4 Torpedo fuze in its “ARMED” position. Sorry I took it in blk & wht.

Sorry to be stupid, but what did gyro do? (Besides making Greek restaurants rich).

YES! More pics, Never knew these were available. I really want one now.


[quote=“sksvlad”]Sorry to be stupid, but what did gyro do? (Besides making Greek restaurants rich).[/quote] YES, A TASTY GREEK “SANDWICH”. THESE KEEP THE TORPEDO UPRIGHT AND BALANCED.


I have no interest what-so-ever in torpedoes, but I am glad you posted these pictures, and glad for the answers with more pictures. I found them very, very interesting. It goes to show that any topic dealing with ammunitions at all extremes can be interesting to even of those of us with no real desire to own them or study them. Damn, though. Now I have to start a file on Torpedoes. Spot on guys - really fascinating, and the black and white pictures, in this case, are if anything, better than the color ones, or certainly as good.

Thanks so much! I am fascinated by their engineering and have taken hundreds of close-up macro shots of them in black and white in the dark to get that effect. I will post some more photos of other torpedo artifacts if you guys want some. Every so often I hook a air compressor to the air driven gyros and get them spinning so fast they hum. At this speed the gyroscopic forces are so strong it is hard to turn. One of the Whitehead torpedo gyros dated 1902 still functions perfectly today. You insert a special key threw the wood box, wind it with-out breaking your wrist until it locks. You can then use the firing key to release the spring which in turn spins a gear on the main rotor causing it to haul butt for 15 to minutes. Pretty good considering it is 105 years old.

APFSDS- Could I have your permission to show the gyroscope pictures to my Physics class, beside a collector I am a Science teacher and the gyroscopic principle is used in so many applications, the unique ones, Kids will remember. Vic

The purpose of the gyro was to keep the torpedo on course to its target. The gyro could have an offset angle set on it before firing so that it altered course as soon as it left the tube or it could run true to the angle of the tube. It then stayed on a steady “gyro” course until it either hit something or ran out of power. The run-up of the gyro wheel was part of the firing sequence and was initiated by a lever being tripped by the initial movement forward in the tube. This is why the run-up acceleration had to be so fast, so the gyro was at full speed and steady before the torpedo left the tube.

The torpedo is negatively bouyant so it is kept at its running depth by a slight nose-up attitude to counteract the tendency to sink. The running depth and angle are controlled by a combined pendulum and pressure mechanism. If too shallow the pressure bellows relaxes and the horizontal control planes (rudders) move to cause the torpedo to dive. As the correct running depth is approached the pressure bellows moves the control planes to level the “fish” out. So the bellows senses water pressure (=depth) and the pendulum senses running angle, too steep at the nose and it pulls the nose down etc. Due to the negative bouyancy the torpedo sank to the bottom when power was exhausted.

The torpedo must remain upright in the water so torpedoes were made with a low centre-of-gravity so that they naturally roll back upright if disturbed. They also have to have two contra-rotating propellors so that the torque on the fish is cancelled or it would spin out of control.


Great info gravelbelly, all accurate. Vic, feel free to utilize the photos for your students. Too bad I can’t show you video of the gyros working. Or even the audio of them SCREAMING as they haul a–! I will post more pics tonight. I also have allot of propellers I can send photos off. I have a beautiful Swiss Torpedo Gyro that is a close mod of the very 1st torpedo gyro called an, “OBRY APPARATUS”, named after the inventor OBRY who I think was Austrian or Swiss in the late 1800’s. Whitehead, also Austrian, was the one one who ran with the concept of installing gyros in torpedoes. The British Royal Navy started buying Whitehead gyros and Whitehead torpedoes until they copied Whitehead’s gyro and had the RGF (Royal Gun Factory) make exact copies cheaper, maybe under license? I have both. I think the most intricate of all the torpedo guidance gyros is the Japanese, they are spectacular! Most of them are also stamped with numerous manufacturing stamps, including the 3 diamond stamp of Mitsubishi.

Here are a few more photos.

This one shows how even early model torpedo could have their “Gyro Angle” preset so the submarine could launch without even facing the target. Latter model gyros even have safeties installed so if the torpedo ever does a 180, it disarms.

Here are 2 photos of a Sweedish gyro that is as close as it gets to an origional “OBRY APPARATUS”. The craftmanship of the main rotor is amazing. Keep in mind that each “Bucket, Groove, or Port”, has to have the exact same weight in material removed to maintain perfect balance. I have had the President of a modern day Aviation Gyro company contact me to explain his bewilderment on how precise the rotors were fabricated 100 years ago=. He has million dollar equipment manufacturing his rotors to just meet the standards of these old rotors.

Note the “PORTS” used to trap compressed air energy in this early (1930’s?) Whitehead Gyro.

Here are 2 photos detailing the counter rotating propellers on a old replaced British MK24 Tigerfish torpedo. The Tigerfish has been replaced by the more accurate Speerfish Torpedo.

Kind of off subject from torpedoes, but this is the guidance gyroscope removed from a old “BLOWPIPE MISSILE”. Note the extreem engineering and the 2 large circular holes. Their are actualy 4 of these holes and they are were the missiles front 4 steering fins are installed that the gyro singles to make course corrections.

Torpedoes are very sophisticated weapons, more akin to guided missiles than “dumb” artillery shells. Modern ones can travel far and silently whilst searching for the target. If they lose the signal thay can slow down and “loiter” to conserve power and manoeuvre around in a search pattern. If they regain contact they wind up the power and home in for the hit.

However, despite their heavy use during both World Wars there has been very little Naval Action since WW2 in which torpedoes played any part. Now, here’s a couple of questions for you; How many times have torpedoes been fired at a Warship or Submarine since the end of WW2 apart from during trials or training exercises? How many vessels have been hit and sunk by a torpedo since WW2?


WAG: ONE! The Belgrano (Argentine cruiser) by the British, during the Falklands war.

What’s the prize?

Wow! Good Answer! That was a good question, I never thought off. I recently saw a documentary on that with the survivors of the Belgrano on the History or Discovery Channel. I think they used a MK24 Tigerfish for that also? It is amazing the technology in modern torpedoes, especially the US MK48 ADCAP and the British Speerfish. Their was a really cool video clip circulating the net of an Australian MK48 test on a target destroyer. It was pretty amazing. These torpedoes were designed to detonated under the target vs hitting it directly. Apparently the large bubble that forms under the target breaks the ship in half. One shot and the massive destroyer was in two pieces.

Besides that the Argentine Torpedoes fired at the Brits did not work and they were returned to Germany for overhaul after the conflict.

Here the target ship images: … esting.jpg … esting.jpg

Thanks EOD! Yes, that is the same test I saw the video off. Pretty amazing! Thanks for finding them.

[quote=“EOD”]Besides that the Argentine Torpedoes fired at the Brits did not work and they were returned to Germany for overhaul after the conflict.

Here the target ship images: … esting.jpg … esting.jpg[/quote]

The Argentine Air Force was equiped with US made bombs and fuzes which had a lengthy safety delay to allow the attacking aircraft to avoid the blast of his own bomb. This delay was too long for the close-in, low-level, tactics used by the very skilful Argentine pilots. Many (most?) of the British ships involved in the conflict were struck by bombs but, fortunately for them, most of the bombs failed to explode as the safety delay had not run off. Some ships were left with a bomb-diameter hole clean through and out of the bottom, worrying but not casastrophic. But for this factor more ships would have been lost and the outcome of the conflict would have been different. I believe that the US rectified the fuze problem for Argentina later.


Very interesting info. I had no clue. It always amazines me the international relationships with various weapons.


PS: FYI, here is a photo of a different Japanese torpedo gyroscope.