The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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Torpedo boats were introduced into the world’s navies prior to the First World War. They were small, fast boats with a low silhouette and main armament of two to four torpedoes, intended to attack warships at night or other conditions of low visibility. The destroyer was originally a torpedo boat destroyer, armed with rapid-fire guns to protect larger warships from torpedo boats.
Conventional torpedo boats were all but obsolete by the time of the Second World War. Improvements in machinery and hull form had given destroyers excellent speed and good seakeeping, leaving very little for a torpedo boat could do that a destroyer could not do better. Those torpedo boats still in commission were used mostly for coastal defense by nations with no seagoing fleets. However, the Japanese navy departed from this pattern in retaining torpedo boats resembling small destroyer escorts. This allowed the Japanese to take advantage of clauses in the naval disarmament treaties that allowed unlimited construction of torpedo boats under 600 tons.
By the Second World War, most navies employed motor torpedo boats,
small, wooden-hulled boats driven
by internal combustion engines at
40 knots or more, in the coastal defense role.
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