Testing Torpedoes

6 Sep

When you see torpedoes running along just below the surface, you don’t tend to think of the work that must have gone into making them do that, rather than diving down or up. This article was from November 1950 Popular Mechanics:

The Navy’s Chamber of Horrors

  • Sometimes torpedoes leap out of water like dolphins. Water-entry studies show how to correct this fault.

All this delicately instrumented equipment was fine when the Navy could lower it gently over the side of a ship in the night. But today, it must withstand firing into the ocean from speeding jet planes. It must take thousands of miles of punishing travel in jolting trucks and shuddering transport planes, stock-piling in humid, corrosive jungle atmosphere or sub-zero Arctic. How it reacted to all this used to be a matter of expensive testing under actual conditions.

Now, in a huge three-story building taking up an entire wing of the new Naval Ordnance Laboratory at White Oak, a collection of fantastic machines fling weapon models into water at varying speeds, jolt and jar equipment to simulate the rough handling it may get. There are machines to bake it like the desert, freeze it like the Arctic, humidify it like the jungle, drop it, thump it, pummel it and squeeze it under the fantastic pressures of deep ocean. In this labyrinth of environmental wonders, marine can be subjected to any conceivable condition they may encounter anywhere in the world-from assembly line to explosion against target.

  • Model of torpedo dives toward bottom of test tank instead of running along the surface. Experiments enable designers to change model to correct faults.

By studying water-entry movies, Navy designers can see what makes their weapons tumble, why torpedoes “broach” or leap from the water like lively porpoises, why mines dive or act strangely when dropped from speeding aircraft. “The optimum mine case today is smooth and clean,” says Doctor May. “We know that at low speeds, even fingerprints on a steel ball were enough to make a big splash and big cavity, whereas a perfectly clean ball went in smoothly and the cavity closed up quickly.” Designers of droppable ordnance now make vanes that will guide the weapon properly by catching in the cavity’s watery walls. Queer-shaped noses, proved out in the model tank, help steer the falling missile.

  • Torpedo crackling with frost is suddenly dunked in warm water, simulating delivery by high-altitude plane.

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