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. While the 19th-century battleship had evolved primarily with a view to engagements between armored warships with large-calibre guns, the invention and refinement of torpedoes from the 1860s onwards allowed small torpedo boats and other lighter surface vessels, submarines/submersibles, even improvised fishing boats or frogmen, and later light aircraft, to destroy large ships without the need of large guns, though sometimes at the risk of being hit by longer-range artillery fire. One can divide modern torpedoes into lightweight and heavyweight classes, and into straight-running, autonomous homers, and wire-guided types. They can be launched from a variety of platforms. Etymology The word torpedo comes from the name of a genus of electric rays in the order Torpediniformes, which in turn comes from the Latin torpere ('to be stiff or numb'). In naval usage, the American Robert Fulton introduced the name to refer to a towed gunpowder charge used by his French submarine Nautilus (first tested in 1800) to demonstrate that it could sink warships. = Middle Ages =Torpedo-like weapons were first proposed many centuries before they were successfully developed.
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