In times of warfare and tactics coming from all kinds of sides, it’s crucial to discover or invent something that will give you the advantage against the other side and which will enter history books in future. Many innovations were made in the field of firearms, aviation and other kinds of weapons but it seemed like things were going slowly when it came to battles that took place on the sea, and barely anything below the sea surface. There were variations of underwater mines in mid 19th century when ships dragged those mines on long lashes until they were under the enemy’s ship and then the mine exploded. In American Civil War there were also similar ways to destroy the ship of the other side, but still not as effective as other „continental“ weaponry.
A huge shift happened when a retired officer of Austro-Hungarian Navy, a Croat from Rijeka named Ivan Lupis Vukić / Giovanni Luppis in 1860 presented to Tzar Franz Josef in his hometown of Rijeka something new what we today all know of- a torpedo.
In mid 19th century, just as he retired, he came across an idea to construct some kind of prototype which came in form of some kind of a smaller boat which would be filled with explosives and navigated by a rope. That way, the ship which was navigated from the outside could easily be directed and aiming the ship of the enemy.
Ivan Vukić made numerous changes in the way his prototype and its engine worked and although he got great ovations for his invention, the Austro-Hungarian army still refused to use it at the time.
Luckily, it didn’t take long to realize how much-advanced torpedo was in comparison with other underwater weapons of that time and ever before.
The first factory that produced torpedoes was located in Rijeka and it was founded by an English industrialist Robert Whitehead for the needs of Austro-Hungarian Navy. The invention didn’t hold the name „torpedo“ at the beginning but had a German name „Minenschiff“ which literally meant Mine-ship.
The projectile was faster than the previous underwater weapons and could reach up to 900 meters and the technology behind how it worked was indeed revolutionary.
After the war period and national tensions, the factory in Rijeka started to export torpedoes to other countries in 1881.
Everything that happened in the future is history.
In the late 19th century, Whitehead opened another torpedo factory in England with even more sophisticated systems of navigation and engines in general.
The first ship that was sunk by this renewed type of torpedo was „Blanco Encalada“ during the Chilean Civil War in April 1891. The ship which launched the torpedo was called „Lynch“.
Torpedoes really caught the attention of the public during WW1 as a crucial part of submarines.
They were also used during WW2 but without any additional changes made.
Throughout further history, there were many technological advancements made in torpedoes and that underwater weapon made many courses of history changed and for that, we can thank Ivan Lupis Vukić, a great innovator from Croatia!