Type 53 torpedo

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A 53-65K torpedo on display in the torpedo storage areas of the former Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk.

Type 53 is the common name for a family of 53 cm (21 inch) torpedoes manufactured in Russia, starting with the 53-27 torpedo and continuing to the modern UGST (Fizik-1), which is being replaced by the Futlyar.

With the exception of the UGST which uses Mark 48 style monopropellants, Soviet 53 cm torpedoes generally use electric power (since middle of World War II), or kerosene mixed with various oxidizers for propulsion. Russian torpedoes are often named descriptively for their characteristics – examples include "acoustic homing" or "electric torpedo", all in Russian acronyms.


Early history[edit]

Model 53-27 (1927) with 265 kg of TNT was developed domestically in the so-called Ostekhbureau [Wikidata], and it had a poor 3.7 km range at 45 knots. In 1932 USSR bought in Italy several types of torpedoes, and the 21-inch model of Whitehead plant in Rijeka (in the Soviet Union it was designated 53F) was considered superior. After adapting several features from the latter in unsuccessful 53-36 the decision was made to copy 53F. Resulting 53-38 (3 speed regimes, range up to 10 km, 300 kg of trotyl in warhead) was later upgraded to 53-38U (400 kg of TNT, roughly the same characteristics) and then redesigned in 53-39 (317 kg, up to 51 kt), considered to be one of the fastest in the world at the time (another were secret Japanese oxygen torpedoes and the Italian Silure Tipo W. 270/533,4 × 7,20 Veloce).

World War 2[edit]

The 53-38/53-38U, which had entered service in 1938–1939, were the main Soviet torpedoes in World War 2; they proved to be fairly reliable and effective. The two deadliest sinkings in history (the Nazi 25,484-ton military transport MV Wilhelm Gustloff and the troop transport MV Goya) were performed by two soviet submarines using 53-38's on 30 January and 16 April 1945; both ships were hit on first attempt and sank within minutes in despite of difficult visibility conditions and the presence of escorts. Notably, all three torpedoes launched against the Gustloff hit and exploded with catastrophic results, not a common feat in those times and conditions.

Another notable sinking with 53-38/53-38U's was the 14,660-ton General von Steuben. During the Black Sea campaigns (1941–44), Soviet submarines sank at least 29,000 tons of enemy shipping, mostly using mines, shellfire and 53-58 torpedoes.

The new 53-39 (entering service in 1941) was very fast and effective but only available in limited numbers, while the ET-80 (1942-1943) was the first Soviet electric torpedo and crews didn't trust it because of its teething and rushed induction problems.

Cold War[edit]

The first Soviet torpedo with passive-homing capability was the SAET-50 (1950), which was an anti-ship weapon used on submarines. The 53-61 was the first Soviet homing torpedo to exceed 40 knots.

The 53-65 torpedo family are Russian made, wake-homing torpedoes designed to destroy surface ships. 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 the Kilo class and the Akula-class submarine.

The Type 53-65 torpedo is considered especially threatening by the United States Navy because they do not respond to usual torpedo countermeasures. Normal countermeasures are decoys that use noise to divert homing torpedoes, but the Type 53-65 uses sensors that detect the churn made by ships moving, then follows the chopped water in an S-pattern between the wakes until impact from up to 11.8 mi (19.0 km; 10.3 nmi) away. Wake homing torpedoes have caused the U.S. Navy to develop the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense (SSTD) system that employs a maneuvering Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT) that seeks and intercepts an incoming torpedo.[1]


The last entry in the class is the UGST (Fizik-1) heavy deepwater torpedo with a range of up to 60 km (export versions are limited to 40 km). It differs from most previous Soviet and Russian torpedoes in that unlike the previously dominant electric or peroxide propulsion, it uses the Otto fuel axial engine, which allows it to have much extended range while keeping the speeds of up to 65 knots. It also features an updated homing system, which, in addition to the traditional passive wake homing, features a phased array active sonar and an improved wire guidance system: previous Soviet torpedoes had the guidance wire spool in the torpedo body, with the wire released through the hollow propeller shaft, which had the disadvantage of the wire being prone to breakage, while the UGST has the wire release port on the side. Together with the towed extender spool, kept in the calmer portion of the wake, this makes the wire much more durable than before. It was supposed to enter service in the 1990s,[2] but the teething problems and the lack of funding during that period made the deployment sluggish, and it entered the widespread service only in the 2015 by the Fizik name,[3] being quickly replaced by the new-generation Futlyar (Fizik-2). Sources refer to them as heat-seeking torpedoes.[4]


Soviet torpedoes of the types SET-40 (front) and SET-65, as manufactured 1965. The SET-40 carries 80 kgs of explosives and has a length of 4,50 metres with a diameter of 400 mm. It travels up to 7,5 km at a speed of 29 knots. Type SET-65 contains 205 kg of explosives, has a length of 7,90 metres and a diameter of 533 mm. It travels up to 15 km at a speed of 40 knots.
  • 53-27L (First produced variant)
  • 53-38/53-38U/53-59/53-56V and -56VA (Standard straight-running Soviet torpedo of WWII)
  • 53-51 (First Soviet torpedo with pattern-running ability)
  • 53-57/53-58/53-61 (Primary torpedo development family in the post-war era)
  • 53-65/53-65K and -65KE/TT-3 (First mass produced wake homing Soviet torpedo, included engine improvements)
  • SAET-50 (First Soviet anti-ship homing torpedo)
  • SET-53/SAET-53 (First Soviet anti-submarine homing torpedo)
  • SAET-60/SAET-60M (Anti-ship homing torpedo, improvement over the SET-53 development)
  • SET-65 Enot/SET-65M Enot 2 (First effective Soviet anti-submarine homing torpedo, active/passive homing)
  • TEST-71 (Standard Soviet/Russian wire guided torpedo, active/passive homing)
  • UGST (A 'universal' thermal torpedo, with pumpjet propulsor, active/passive homing)
  • USET-80 (Current Russian submarine and surface ship torpedo, active/passive/wake homing)

53-65 specifications[edit]

  • Primary function: ASUW torpedo
  • Power plant:
    • 53-65 and 53-65M: Kerosene-hydrogen peroxide turbine
    • 53-65K: Kerosene-oxygen turbine
  • Length: 7.2 m (24 ft)
  • Weight: 2,070–2,300 kg (4,560–5,070 lb)
  • Diameter: 533 mm (21.0 in)
  • Range:
    • 53-65: 18,000 metres (20,000 yd)
    • 53-65K: 19,000 metres (21,000 yd)
    • 53-65M: 22,000 metres (24,000 yd)
  • Speed:
    • 53-65 and 53-65K: 45 kn (52 mi/h, 83 km/h)
    • 53-65M: 44 kn (51 mi/h, 81 km/h)
  • Guidance system: Wake homing
  • Warhead: 307.6 kilograms (678 lb) high explosive
  • Operational since:
    • 53-65: 1965
    • 53-65K and 53-65M: 1969


  1. ^ Navy Develops Torpedo Killing Torpedo - News.USNI.org, 20 June 2013
  2. ^ http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WTRussian_post-WWII.php
  3. ^ http://navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/2017/march-2017-navy-naval-forces-defense-industry-technology-maritime-security-global-news/4995-improved-ugst-fizik-torpedo-futlyar-to-enter-russian-navy-service-in-2018.html
  4. ^ http://tass.com/defense/883900
  5. ^ Friedman, Norman (2006). Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems (5th ed.). US Naval Institute. pp. 731–735. ISBN 1557502625.

External links[edit]