Thursday, March 30, 2006

Those 345 MPH Supercavitating Torpedoes: Did You Know?

UPDATE: July-10-2008 - Related posting about cutting edge research: What If ...? .

The Peoples Republic of China reportedly bought 40 Shkval rocket torpedoes from Kazakhstan.[71] in 1998. An improved version of the Shkval may be capable of a 300 knots speed (345 mph). [70] France, the U.S., and Germany have also undertaken supercavitating torpedo development.

With a range of at least 3 to 4 miles, Shkval torpedoes reduce reaction times to travel that distance from 3 minutes to perhaps 40 seconds. The swiftest traditional undersea technologies, in contrast, are limited to a maximum of about 80 mph. Scientific American published an article Warp Drive Underwater in 2001: When the Russian submarine K-141 Kursk sank last August, rumors surfaced of mysterious blasts sending the huge sub to the bottom of the Barents Sea and that this was somehow connected to testing an ultrahigh-speed torpedo. "Several months earlier, when American businessman Edmond Pope was arrested in Moscow on charges of espionage, it was said that he had been trying to buy the plans for an ultrahigh-speed torpedo."

The missile has been characterized as a "revenge" weapon to be fired along the bearing of an incoming enemy torpedo. The Shkval may also be considered an evasion torpedo, which when fired in the same direction forces the attacking enemy to react evasively (snapping their torpedoes' guidance wires). Russia began marketing this conventionally armed version of the Shkval-E(xport) high-speed underwater rocket at the IDEX 99 exhibition in Abu Dhabi in early 1999.

Certainly, the technology has its own drawbacks. The supercavitating torpedoes noise and speed are two of the drawbacks, limiting sonar homing and wire guidance possibilities from the outset. The Shkval-2, however may overcome real-time guidance feedback, nevertheless.

Should sailors be particularly frightened of this continually improved torpedo? Perhaps, but submarine sailors will not be frightened, because controlling very hazardous conditions, or else, has always been a day-in and day-out necessity for them.


At 02 April, 2006 21:43, Blogger Mark Tempest said...

What timely post ! The Iranians are claiming they, too, now have what must be such a weapon. See here.

At 03 April, 2006 14:36, Blogger Vigilis said...

Eagle1, thank you for the mention. Your Update2 photo was tops! Molten Eagle

At 21 April, 2006 06:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Presently, absent some HUGE step in Russian technology vis-a-vis the supercavitating torpedo, our submariners don't have much to worry about. Especially from Iranian ones. Heh, what a joke. Our torpedoes have a 30 nautical mile range compared with the 3-5 nm range of the Shkval. Ever see the Star Trek where they first encountered the Romulans? Same basic idea, we just sit outside their range and pound the crap out of 'em. Read more at:,14632,Soldiertech_060420_shkval,,00.html

Also, because they can only follow a straight line, all our subs have to do to avoid is make a depth adjustment. It's not as if our subs wouldn't hear a ROCKET coming well before it reached them (sound propogates through water at approx. 3,000 knots whereas the Shkval goes somewhere between 200 to 300 knots).

At 21 April, 2006 07:15, Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon, liked the Romulan analogy and speed comparisons. Thanks for your feedback.

At 25 July, 2006 02:03, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thinking ahead,

A superfast torpedo, (300mph), based on a film of air being created around it to make the friction drag drastically less...

There is absolutely no reason this same technique cannot be used on warships.

Hydrofoils are dang fast, but maybe you can even use the air drag on the foil planes? Now were talkin speed.

So, how bout aircraft carrier bearing down on you at 200-300 mph?

But teh technology for underwater, to surface, to air, back to surface, back under water missiles has been around...decades? Maybe susceptible to radar then, but 700 to 1000 mph might be pretty cool!



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