VA-111 Shkval Torpedo – Torpedo missiles are the primary means of destroying enemy submarines. The Russian torpedo “Shkval” has long been distinguished by its original design and unsurpassed technical characteristics and is still in service with the Russian Navy.
VA-111 Shkval Torpedo: History of The Development
MilitaryEzyInfo.com | The world’s first torpedo, relatively suitable for combat use against stationary ships, was designed and even homemade in 1865 by Russian inventor I.F. Alexandrovsky. His “self-propelled mine” was the first-ever equipped with a pneumatic motor and hydrostat (a depth regulator).
But at first the head of the relevant department, Admiral N.K. Krabbe considered the development “premature”, and later the mass production and adoption of the domestic “torpedo” were abandoned, giving preference to Whitehead’s torpedo.
Since then torpedoes and launchers have been increasingly proliferated and modernized. Over time, special warship destroyers emerged for which torpedo weapons were the main weapon.
The first torpedoes were equipped with pneumatic or steam-gas engines, developed a relatively low speed, and on the march left a distinct trace, which noticed by the sailors had time to make a maneuver – to dodge. Only German designers managed to create an electric-powered underwater missile before World War II.
The advantages of torpedoes over anti-ship missiles:
– A more massive/powerful warhead;
– more destructive explosive energy for a floating target;
– immune to weather conditions – torpedoes are not hindered by storms and waves;
– the torpedo is more difficult to destroy or to throw off course by interference.
The need to improve submarines and torpedo weapons was dictated to the Soviet Union by the United States with its excellent air defense system that made the American naval fleet nearly invulnerable to bomber aviation.
The design of the torpedo, which surpassed existing domestic and foreign models in speed due to its unique principle of action, began in the 1960s. The design work was carried out by the specialists of the Moscow Research Institute, later (after the USSR) reorganized into the notorious State Research and Production Enterprise “Region”. The head of the development was G.V. Logvinovich, who was sent to Moscow from Ukraine for a long time from 1967 he was the academician of the Academy of Sciences of the UkrSSR. According to other data, the group of designers was headed by I.L. Merkulov.
In 1965 the new weapon was first tested at the Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan, after which the system “Shkval” more than ten years to finalize. The designers had the task to make the torpedo missile universal, which is designed for submarines and surface ships. It was also necessary to maximize speed.
Initially, the submarine torpedo had no homing system and was equipped with a 150 kiloton nuclear warhead capable of inflicting damage to the enemy up to the elimination of an aircraft carrier with all armament and escorting ships. Variations with conventional warheads soon appeared.
The purpose of VA-111 Shkval Torpedo
As a reactive torpedo, the Shkval is designed to attack submarine and surface targets. First of all, they are submarines, enemy ships, and boats, also it is possible to shoot at coastal infrastructure.
VA-111 Shkval Torpedo: Design
The developers of the Shkval strove to realize the idea of an underwater missile that no maneuver could dodge a large enemy ship. For this purpose, it was required to reach a speed of 100 m/s, or at least 360 km/h.
The design team succeeded in accomplishing what seemed impossible to create a jet-propelled underwater torpedo weapon that successfully overcame water resistance due to supercavitation movement.
The unique speed characteristics became a reality first of all thanks to the double water-jet engine that includes a launch and a landing section. The first part gives the rocket the most powerful impulse at launch, and the second one maintains the rapidity of motion.
The march one is solid-fuel, using seawater as an oxidizer-catalyst, which allows the rocket to move without propellers in the back.
Supercavitation is the movement of a solid object in an aqueous environment with the formation of a “cocoon” around it, with only water vapor inside. Such a bubble significantly reduces the resistance of water. It is inflated and maintained by special cavitation containing a gas generator for supercharging gases.
The homing torpedo hits its target with an appropriate marching engine control system. Without homing, the Squall hits the target according to the coordinates set at launch. Neither the submarine nor the large ship has time to leave the specified point since both are vastly inferior to the weapon in terms of speed.
The lack of homing does not theoretically guarantee a 100% accurate hit, but a homing missile can be thwarted by the enemy using missile defense devices, while a non-homing missile follows the target despite such obstacles.
VA-111 Shkval Torpedo: Performance Specifications
Tactical and technical characteristics of the Shkval missile torpedo:
– Caliber: 533.4 mm;
– Length: 8 meters;
– Mass: 2700 kg;
– Nuclear warhead capacity: 150 kilotons of TNT;
– Mass of a conventional warhead: 210 kg;
– Speed: 375 km/h;
– Radius of action: the old torpedo has about 7 kilometers / the modernized torpedo has up to 13 kilometers.
Differences (peculiarities) of Shkval-E:
– Length: 8.2 m;
– Range: up to 10 kilometers;
– Depth: 6 meters;
– Charge: only high-explosive;
– Launching type: surface or underwater;
– Depth of underwater launch: up to 30 meters.
Pros and cons of the Torpedo
Advantages of the water-jet torpedo missile:
- Unparalleled speed on the march, providing virtually guaranteed to overcome any enemy fleet defenses and destroy a submarine or surface ship;
- Powerful high-explosive charge – hits even the largest warships, and a nuclear warhead is capable of sinking an entire aircraft carrier group in a single strike;
- Suitability of the water-jet missile system for installation in surface ships and submarines.
Disadvantages of the Shkval:
- The high cost of the weapon, about 6 million U.S. dollars;
- accuracy leaves much to be desired;
- Strong noise emitted on the march, combined with vibration, instantly de-mask the submarine;
- Short-range reduces the survivability of the ship or submarine from which the missile is launched, especially when using a torpedo with a nuclear warhead.
In fact, the cost of launching Shkval includes not only the production of the torpedo itself, but also the submarine (ship), and the value of the entire crew’s manpower.
A range of less than 14 km is a major disadvantage.
In modern naval combat, launching from such a distance is a suicidal act for a submarine crew. Of course, only a destroyer or frigate can dodge a “torpedo fan” launched, but it is hardly realistic for a submarine (ship) itself to hide from the place of attack in the range of deck aviation and aircraft carrier support group.
VA-111 Shkval Torpedo: Available Modifications
Modernization of the waterjet torpedo is among the most important tasks of the designers of weapons for the Russian Navy. Therefore, work on the improvement of the Shkval has not been completely curtailed even in the crisis nineties.
Currently, there are at least three modified “supersonic” torpedoes:
- First of all, it is the aforementioned export variation of Shkval-E, designed specifically for production in order to sell abroad. This variation is characterized by a shorter range – 10 km against 13 for the modernized Shkval, which is produced for the Russian Navy. Shkval-E is used only with launching complexes unified with Russian ships. Work on the design of modified variations for the launch systems of individual customers is still “in progress;
- Shkval-M is an improved variation of the water-jet torpedo-missile, completed in 2010, with better range and warhead weight. The latter is increased to 350 kilograms, and the range is just over 13 km. Design work to improve the weapon continues unabated.
- In 2013, and even more advanced ones, the Shkval-M2, was designed. Both variations with the letter “M” are strictly classified, there is almost no information about them.
VA-111 Shkval Torpedo: Foreign Comparables
For a long time, there were no comparable Russian waterjet torpedoes. It was not until 2005 that a German company introduced a product called the Barracuda. According to the manufacturer’s representatives, Diehl BGT Defense, the new torpedo is capable of traveling at slightly higher speeds thanks to enhanced supercavitation. “The Barracuda has undergone a number of tests, but it has not yet been put into production.
In May 2014, the commander of the Iranian Navy stated that his branch of the military also possesses submarine-torpedo weapons that allegedly travel at speeds of up to 320 km/h. However, there has been no further information confirming or refuting this claim.
It is also known about the American underwater missile HSUW (High-Speed Undersea Weapon), which operates based on the phenomenon of supercavitation. But this development so far exists only in the project. No foreign Navy has a ready-made equivalent of the Squall in service yet.