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Schwartzkopff torpedo
Torpille Schwartzkopff.jpg
Schwartzkopff torpedo adopted by the Russian Navy ca. 1904
Type Anti-surface ship torpedo[1]
Place of origin  German Empire
Service history
Used by  United States Navy[1]
 Imperial Russian Navy[2]
 Imperial Japanese Navy[2]
 Spanish Navy[2]
 Imperial Chinese Navy[3]
Wars First Sino-Japanese War
Production history
Designed 1873[2]
Manufacturer Berliner Maschinenbau[2]
Weight 616 pounds[2]
Length 14 feet, 9 inches[2]
Diameter 14 inches[2]

Effective range 220-440 yards[2]
Warhead guncotton[2]
Warhead weight 44 pounds[2]

Speed 22-25 knots[2]
battleships and torpedo boats[1]

The Schwartzkopff torpedo was a torpedo manufactured in the late 19th century by the German firm Eisengießerei und Maschinen-Fabrik von L. Schwartzkopff, later known as Berliner Maschinenbau, based on the Whitehead design.[2] Unlike the Whitehead torpedo, which was manufactured out of steel, the Schwartzkopff was made out of bronze, enhancing corrosion resistance.


In 1866 Robert Whitehead, working on a design by Giovanni Luppis, perfected what came to be known as the Whitehead torpedo. Whitehead's Fiume torpedo works then became a meeting place for business associates and potential customers. One such visitor was Louis Victor Robert Schwartzkopff, the owner of the German firm Berliner Maschinenbau. On the last night of Schwartzkopff's visit, a disturbance had reportedly taken place in the plant's drawing room. In the morning, it was discovered that someone had broken in and stolen a set of torpedo plans. Whitehead maintained that Schwartzkopff had nothing to do with the affair. A few months after, Schwartzkopff's company unveiled a new product, the Schwartzkopff torpedo. It looked very similar to the Whitehead torpedo and in fact featured Whitehead's "Secret" pendulum-and-hydrostat control system.[4]

At least one source states that Whitehead, "restrained by British security, had to invent a different torpedo for the Germans called the Schwarzkopf [sic].[5]


An 1887 Australian reporter's account of the Schwartzkopff's operation states that the weapon was launched from a torpedo boat and that it was driven by compressed air. A torpedo could be fully charged with air within 7 or 8 minutes and that this was enough to drive the torpedo for 600 yards. The explosive utilized was compressed guncotton which was fired by a detonator placed at the point of the torpedo and ignited by percussion when the torpedo hits a resisting body.[6]

Schwartzkopff torpedo's general profile, as illustrated in The Schwartzkopff Torpedo manual, published by the US Navy in 1903: 1. War nose 2. War head 3. Immersion chamber 4. Air flask 5. Engine room 6. After body 7. Bevel gear box 8. Tail

The United States Navy purchased 12 Schwartzkopff torpedoes in 1898, this naval service's one and only acquisition of the Schwartzkopff product. As delivered to the United States Navy, the Schwartzkopff torpedo was constructed in eight sections: war nose, warhead, immersion chamber, air flask, engine room, after body, bevel gear box and tail. However, it was typically dismantled and assembled into four parts: the head, immersion chamber, air flask and after body. All the sections were manufactured out of bronze with the air flask made of a special grade to withstand the internal pressure of 90 atmospheres per square inch.[1]


During the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), both the Chinese and Japanese navies were equipped with Schwartzkopff torpedoes. The Chinese Navy had the first opportunity to employ their torpedoes during the Battle of Yalu River, but none were able to hit their targets. This poor performance was attributed to improper maintenance of the weapons by the Chinese.[3] Five months later, during the Battle of Weihaiwei, the Japanese sent torpedo boats to attack the Chinese fleet. Firing eleven Schwartzkopff torpedoes, the Japanese managed to sink three Chinese warships. It was the most successful deployment of torpedoes at that point in history.[3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 The Schwartzkopff Torpedo: Descriptions, Nomenclatures and Plates. Bureau of Ordnance, United States Navy. 1903. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 "History of Early Torpedoes (1800–1870)". Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Newpower, Anthony (2006). Iron Men And Tin Fish: The Race to Build a Better Torpedo During World War II. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 16. ISBN 0-275-99032-X. 
  4. Newpower, Anthony (2006). Iron Men And Tin Fish: The Race to Build a Better Torpedo During World War II. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 25. ISBN 0-275-99032-X. 
  5. "The Whitehead Family". Retrieved 2013-06-06. 
  6. "The Easter Encampments: Artillery Camp". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1887-04-02.,869471. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 

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