July 1, 2015

Current Heavyweight Russian Torpedos

Russian Type 53 (533mm) torpedos inside a Kilo 877EKM submarine. (Courtesy http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/kilo877/ ) which advises:

 "The Type 877EKM has six 533mm torpedo tubes and carries 18 heavyweight torpedoes (six in the tubes and 12 on the racks), with an automatic rapid loader. 

[Only] Two targets can be engaged simultaneously. Two of the launch tubes can fire the TEST-71MKE TV electric homing torpedo, which has an active sonar homing system with TV guidance which allows the operator to manually switch to an alternative target, and can manoeuvre in two axes. It weighs 1,820kg with a 205kg explosive charge. 

The submarine is also fitted with UGST wake-homing torpedoes. This torpedo weighs 2,200kg with a 200kg explosive charge. It has a range of up to 40km, and a depth of search of up to 500m. The tubes are also capable of deploying 24 mines."

Countries have used anti-torpedo measures for over a century. Sinodefenceforum explains a recent project "The US Navy is actively developing and testing a comprehensive anti-torpedo weapon system that is called the Surface ShipTorpedo Defense (SSTD) system [diagram above] consisting of  [sensors and target acuisition and] a Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT) against incoming enemy torpedos of all types.

Three main types of heavyweight Russian torpedos include:

-  Type 53 - a 533mm torpedo. Possibly the most common Russian torpedo type. The Type 53 torpedo family contain numerous possible types of sensors including sonar, TV, magnetic, wake pressure and contact etc. They may home into a surface ship's wake or a stationary ship. The 53-65 became operational in 1965, while the 53-65K and 53-65M both became operational in 1969. The 53-65KE is an exported version. China received an unknown number of 53-65KE torpedoes from Russia after purchasing 4 Kilo class submarines in the 1990s. The Type 53 torpedo is carried by almost all Russian submarines, including Kilo class and  Akula class. Range: 18+ km, Speed: 83 km/h (45 kt), Warhead: 307.6 kilograms.

-  Type 65 for 650mm torpedos originally developed to counter US Navy aircraft carrier battle groups, large merchant ships like supertankers, and advanced enemy submarines. Russian officials believe that a 65-76A modification of this torpedo is responsible for the explosion of the Kursk. Range: 50 km at 93 km/h (50 knots), 100 km at 56 km/h. Homing: active/passive sonar and wire guidance. Warhead: 450/557 kg high explosive. Propulsion probably gas-turbine powered by hydrogen peroxide, kerosene and compressed air fuel. Driving contra-rotating propellers.

If a Type 65 is fired at over-the-horizon extreme range such platforms as satellites or UAVs may provide final aiming information (for example against a carrier battle group). Klub missiles, launched by the submarine, might also assist in aiming - as well as the Klubs directly tarketing the carrier battle group.

-  VA-111 Shkval torpedo - Russia's most publicized torpedo due to its unusually rare propulsion. This extremely noisy 533mm rocket powered torpedo is supercavitating . It is  thought to be used as a revenge weapon (when the host sub is about to be destroyed) hence the host sub being detected, due to it launching a noisy Shkval, is a low consideration. Only 2, 1 or none might be carried on most Russian subs.

MHalblaub's mention at of Russian torpedos is useful. MHalblaub  advises that “The Russian do use a hypergolic propellant (Kerosene + hydrogen peroxide) for torpedoes (remember the Kursk!)" The Kursk leakage of its hydrogen peroxide fuel onto metals and oxides in a Type 65 or 53 torpedo, resulting in a chemical reaction that culminated in an explosion of the fuel and a kerosene tank and the Kursk's eventual destruction.

On Submarine Matters: Russian heavyweight torpedos under development; Russian lightweight torpedos; and Russian naval mines will also be considered.



Anonymous said...

In an exercise in 2012 the battery driven torpedo Seahake Mod4 ER was able to reach a distance of 140 km.


Vigilis said...

The ranges of some existing and several enhanced range torpedo prototypes begs some fairly basic questions.

1 - (Rhetorical): When would firing on an over-the-horizon target ever be justified?
2 - How could an inadvertent hit on an innocent, intervening vessel be avoided beyond line of sight?
3 - If the answer to 2- involves relay of remote imagery from an aerial drone, distant ship, or other aircraft, why would said vehicle not fire on the target instead of an over-the-horizon sub?
4- If the answer to 2- involves relay of remote imagery from a satellite, we can bet satellite capability, including comms, would probably have been knocked offline at low cost at the start of serious hostilities between major powers. see http://aquilinefocus.blogspot.com/2007/05/chinas-greatest-military-threat-is-no.html

Thoughtful answers to 3- would be much appreciated. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Dear Vigilis,

@1,2: Then you have a clear firing solution. E.g. two submarines working together. There are places like Malacca Straight or places like the waste of water between Australia and the Antarctic with more or less traffic.

@3: An aerial drone is optimized for long loiter times rather than to carry really heavy weapons like a torpedo an MK 46 torpedoes (0.23 t). Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) for a Predator drone is about 1 t! Reaper MTOW 4.7 t with maximum external payload of 1.4 t would work with MK 46. There are more submarine operators than heavy drone users. Many smaller maritime patrol aircraft have no hard points for torpedoes. An attack with a light weight torpedo against an enemy vessel could fail or a Wedgetail may not so delighted to enter the combat zone of an Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD).

@3,4: A submarine tries to hide itself and has other ways to communicate with each other (SEAWEB). Even torpedoes can act as part of such a network. An aerial drone could even be submarine launched. (see page 2 http://www.schiebel.net/AcmsFile/1482/0/550/2009-05-25_Newsletter_Verteidigung.pdf and the drone itself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMT_Aladin communication submerged via Callisto)

@1-4: Do you remember the declaration of a Total Exclusion Zone of 200 nm around the Falkland Islands by the UK?

Then there is another reason for such long range torpedoes (140 km ~ 75 nm). Another submarine may travel at 30 kn and the torpedo is creeping up at 31 kn because with 50 kn it is far easier to detect an incoming torpedo. The SSN may pass at 0.5 nm but the SSK tries to put his torpedo at slow speed in SSN's wake before accelerating it and not launching it right in the TAS of the SSN.

The range of 75 nm is for sure not achieved at top speeds rather the opposite is true.

Still 75 nm is a nice range for a UUV;-)

The Soviet 650 mm torpedoes were sent as a spread in the way of a US carrier strike group. The warheads would have been not conventional ones.


Vigilis said...

Dear MHalblaub,

Your point on Britain's 200 nm Total Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands is well taken. There is no question that aggressors may at times wish to fire from over-the-horizon distances.

I do not yet find clarity to my main question, however: "How could an inadvertent hit on an innocent, intervening vessel be avoided beyond line of sight?" Expanses of "waste water" with "more or less traffic" could only offer justification in an all out war precipitated by a preemptive strike (certainly not a Belgrano situation).

China proved any nation with mastery of space rocketry can knock out military surveillance/comm/GPS satellites with cheap kinetic scrap for pennies on anyone's military satellite investment.

Let's me ask more about your scenario of two submarines working together. Are you suggesting one sub fires (over-the-horizon) at a target closer to the second sub? This could solve the IFF problem of identifying an unfriendly, but like SEAWEB alone it still could not answer the secondary question of why a closer sub would not fire for a more certain kill, even with unconventional warheads.

Thank you for yourvery thoughtful answers.


Anonymous said...

Dear Vigilis,

I doubt it would be possible to launch a long shoot somewhere within Malacca Straight but the sea between Tasmania and Antarctic is void space. No other ships to distract a torpedo.

There are two likely reasons for a closer submarine not to shoot:
- The closer submarine is not capable of launching a torpedo.
- The closer submarine dislikes to be detected in the open sea.

The first volley of torpedoes from the distant submarine may not have finished all enemy vessels. The closer submarine then finishes of the rest of the fleet in disorder.


subdriver said...

This is an interesting discussion indeed. As an ASWO on board the Kilos in the 80s and then in command in the 90s, the CET 53M electric passive homing torpedo, the 53-65KE wake homing anti surface oxygen torpedo and the TEST 71ME wire-guided anti submarine torpedo were my bread and butter. The wake homer was a formidable weapon in the 80s and there was no effective soft kill TCM available to avoid it once it had homed on to the wake and at 45 kts it was difficult to outrun.
The present generation 100 km torpedoes are a quantum leap in technology and are meant for a networked environment where OTH will be the way ahead. The Atlas Sea Hake Mod4 ER has been successfully fired upto a range beyond 140 km with its GPS waypoint capability.
Infact, a combination of a combined missile and torpedo attack at stand-off ranges can be devastating and can dent the surface warfare capabiity of an enemy quite convincingly.

Peter Coates said...

Hi subdriver

I must admit I've never an ex-ASWO and ex-Captain of a Kilo sub before. Times like these that make long hours of submarine writing even more worthwhile than usual :)

Also I'm glad your hands-on description and analysis has not demolished my necessarily theoretical perceptions - in the above article or at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/russian-submarine-swarm-tactics-against.html .

Yes 100+ km range torpedos would certainly need a tight network for redirecting - UAVs useful as well.
Efficient auto-loading must certainly help.



Anonymous said...

Dear Pete,

there is no need for a quick reload. The submarine can push the torpedoes into the water until they receive a go from the submarine.

A small problem remains. According to my knowledge torpedo's backlink gets cut by reload due to simple mechanical problems. The outer torpedo lock has to be closed to put another one inside the tube. So only the last spread can have a backlink to the submarine for a while.

The swarm would need some guidance somehow (SEAWEB) or enough computer power to find a solution on its own. It would not be smart all torpedoes attacking the loudest source...


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub (July 6, 2015 at 9:06 PM)

The submarine's link/wire connected to the torpedo (from Tube A) may well be cut if there is a reload launched from Tube A. It appears that one method Russia is using to reduce that problem is be increasing the number of torpedo tubes:

- Kilos 6 tubes
- Akulas 8 tubes, and
- Yasen 10

Yes if Russian torpedos have anything like the computer smart capabilities of anti-ship Klubs and Yakhont then torpedos coordinated by Russian SEAWEB could hit a number of prioritised targets.

Also I agree that Russia would likely use a (rule of) 3 subs to destroy a carrier group.