Torpedo firing procedure?

My Googling skills are failing me…

In a submarine, what is the procedure for firing a torpedo? Specifically, I mean once the distance, bearing, etc. has been determined, and the Captain makes the decision to fire a torpedo at the target, to whom does he give the order? The XO? The COB?

Once the Capt. gives the order to that second person, who does he then give the order? And who actually presses the button/throws the switch/whatever to actually loose the torpedo?

(answer not needed particularly fast, thankfully)

In which navy, and when?

Ha! I didn’t occur to me that it might make a difference! :smack:

Let’s say U.S. Navy, modern era… that will work for my purposes.


The XO (Executive Officer) and the COB (Chief of the Boat) are in the administrative chain-of-command, not the “on-watch” chain-of-command.

Assuming the Commanding Officer (CO) has not assumed the conn, i.e. taken control of the ship from the on-watch Officer of the Deck (OOD), then the CO would give the order to the OOD, who gives the order to the Fire Control Technician of the Watch (FTOW), who presses the button* in the Control Room to launch a torpedo.

However, generally in such a situation, the ship has gone to Battle Stations, in which case the CO will assume the conn, and he will give the order himself.

*Actually, I can’t remember if it was a button or not. IIRC, it varied between older and newer designs.

Sweet! Thank you!

I assume the CO here is the Captain… yes?

And a button works for me… would be funnier.

Yes. The CO (Commanding Officer) is colloquially referred to as the “Captain.” However, his/her formal title is “Commanding Officer.”

This colloquial title should not be confused with the Navy rank of Captain (O-6), which is equivalent in rank to a U.S. Army Colonel. In actuality, a U.S. submarine CO generally holds the rank of Commander (O-5).

That’s what I needed to know.

Many thanks!

Things can get even more confusing. Suppose an officer with the grade of Captain is aboard a ship or submarine whose commanding officer holds the grade of Commander. This can create a dangerous ambiguity: Which of these officers is being addressed if a breathless crewman rushes onto the bridge shouting, “Captain! Captain!”?

There can really only be one captain of the vessel, so common usage is to address the first officer as “commodore.” This rank title can be even more confusing, though, depending on the time period that is the context. For most of the history of the USN, Commodore has been an honorary title for senior captains in command of squadrons or fleets (Congress did not allow Admirals in the USN until the Civil War) or for situations such as the previous.

For two periods, however, Commodore has been a substantive rank coming in between Captain (O-6) and Rear Admiral (O-8). Between 1943 and 1947, in response to the expansion of the Navy and Coast Guard in WWII FDR created the rank of Commodore by Executive Order. While promotions to this rank actually ended in 1947, it wasn’t until 1950 that all officers with this rank had been either promoted to Rear Admiral or retired.

Not having this rank created a problem in that the rank structure of the Navy and Coast Guard was unbalanced from that of the other three services, which had a Brigadier General (O-7) as a rank in between Colonel and Major General. Unlike these services, the Navy and CG had no “one star” rank. It did, however, have a large percentage of its Rear Admirals that drew the pay equivalent of a Brigadier General in the other services (i.e., had an O-7 pay grade). When Congress had created the rank of Rear Admiral, it specified that half the officers would be paid equal to a Brigadier General, and that the other half would be paid equal to Major Generals. The result is Navy had officers that had the same seniority as Brigadier Generals wearing the insignia of Major Generals, a situation that rankled the other services.

This caused a confusing flurry of changes in the early 80’s. First, a new one-star rank was created for the officers with a pay grade of O-7: Commodore Admiral. This rank title was called confusing and unwieldy, so it was shortened to “Commodore.” This caused a conflict with the honorary usage mentioned above: If you were introduced to an officer as “Commodore So-and-So,” was that a real rank or an honorary one? So it was then changed again, back to Rear Admiral, but with the added qualifier of “(Lower Half).” So we’re sort of back to the original situation, except that Rear Admirals (Lower Half) have one star, and Rear Admirals (Upper Half) have two.

To sum up this over-long tangent: There only ever one officer on a vessel that is addressed as “Captain,” although there may be more than one that have the rank of Captain. There are currently honorary Commodores, but no Commodores with that as an actual rank. In certain time periods, though, Commodore was a rank. This may matter especially if you are writing about WWII or the early 80’s.

Military personnel of the Army, Marines or Air Force who hold the rank of captain and are traveling aboard U.S. Navy warships receive a courtesy “promotion” to major, I’ve read, so that there will still be only one captain aboard any ship.

The two “halves” of admirals in the current U.S. Navy structure are IMHO the dumbest-sounding ranks ever.

Tom Clancy’s books The Hunt for Red October and SSN have interesting takes on current or almost-current USN submarine procedures. Might not be entirely accurate, though.

The Torpedo Fire Control panel (twenty years ago, and I see no reason for it to have changed) “fire button” was a toggle switch shielded by a red cover. The cover must be lifted to gain access to the switch. The cover itself was the last safety device after the order to arm the torpedo prior to launch.
US Navy Torpedoman’s Mate (ret)

This was not true in the US Navy in the late 80s. I worked on an aircraft carrier then and we had no fewer than 4 O-6s on board (the CO, Air Boss, ChEng, and CMO). All were formally addressed as “Captain So-and-So”. In the third person, they were addressed by title, “Take this to the Boss.” “Go see ChEng”, etc. However, this was true even if the person so referenced wasn’t an O-6.

Interestingly, the XO was a Commander (O-5). I worked the Lexington which was a training carrier, so our situation may have been unusual.

I think people are getting too hung up on the colloquial title of the “captain” of a vessel. The fact is that there is only one Commanding Officer (CO) of a vessel. There may be other officers with the rank of captain, including other Navy officers, Marine officers, etc. In my time in the Navy, they were often referred to either by their rank and name (Captain Smith), or by their title. Since everyone on board knew that the CO of the ship was Commander Jones (aka the “CO,” aka the "Captain), there was little chance of confusion between him and [Marine] Captain Smith.

In addition, while the CO is indeed often referred to as the “Captain” in informal speech, if there is any confusion, he or she will addressed be as the “CO.” This could be expanded to “CO [Vessel Name]” if further clarification is needed.

BTW, the reason I keep harping on “colloquial” and “informally” is because all official references to the CO of a vessel–in orders, messages, directives, instructions, etc.–is to either “CO” or “Commanding Officer,” never “Captain.”

Cite? I’ve never heard this before.

I wouldn’t say that “Commodore” is an “honorary” title. I would say that “Commodore” is now an informal or colloquial title for the Commanding Officer of a squadron of ships or submarines, just like “Captain” is the colloquial title of the Commanding Officer of a vessel. The CO of a squadron is often referred to as “the Commodore.” Example usage: “The Commodore is coming by for an inspection of the ship today.”

I’ve only seen this in Heinlein novels. I’ve never seen this done in today’s U.S. Navy. (And yes, I’m aware that Heinlein was in the U.S. Navy pre-WWII. I’m not sure if this “courtesy promotion” was actually done back then, or if Heinlein just made it up for his fiction.)

It’s actually a blast of compressed air that launches a torpedo from the tube, right?

Not directly, because a blast of compressed air would produce a lot of noise and bubbles.

Instead, depending on the class of submarine, either compressed air or a pump acts on the water in the torpedo tube to force the torpedo out of the tube hydraulically. If the tube is empty (used for training and maintenance purposes), this is referred to as launching a “water slug” (i.e. a slug of water).

I think he was referring to the Highland Regulations, which were phased out in the 1980s or so, after a failed attempt at a second edition of the regulations (cite for that is hard to fine, some organizations have gone so far as to purge their records and pretend the regs never existed). The overall concept was abandoned after too many mishaps with sharp blades and enclosed spaces. And the lightning.

My son was on the Connie. The CO held the rank of Captain. The XO held the rank of Captain. The SMO held the rank of Captain. And I believe the Air Boss is normally a Captain.
With other Captains around
If you wanted the CO you could direct the quesstion to Captian or Captian Jones.
The XO would be XO or Captian Smith.
The Air Boss wold be Boss or Captian James
The SMO would be Dr. Sam or Captian Sam.

It is not as big a problem as it is being made out.

As for Commodore, I have heard the Navy is going away from the rank of Rear Admiral of the lower Half.

And a class mate of mine was promoted to the rank of Commodore USMS. The first time anyone in the US Merchant Service has held that rank. Until he retired he was the deck department head and Captian of the TS Golden Bear.

Just FYI for you guys and the mods: My GQ has been answered sufficiently for my needs (IE: a comic I am drawing that I wanted to be at least somewhat accurate).

Y’all are free to continue this discussion in whichever way you wish, or let the thread die.