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Top 9 Fastest Torpedoes in the World

Updated on July 19, 2019
Savio Dawson profile image

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast are his passion, and he writes about them on many sites.

Introduction

Every invention has a reason and so do the torpedoes - to sink enemy ships. The first known torpedo was developed in the late nineteenth century but during that time anything that could explode underwater to destroy ships, including mines, were called torpedo. Only at the turn of the twentieth century did the term torpedo refer to those attack weapons which moved powered by an independent propulsion system. So, the underwater mines remained mines while the mobile detonators were called torpedo.

The need for the torpedoes, back in the time, was because of the inability of an aircraft to directly target an enemy ship, more so if it was a battleship. The battleship would, obviously, return fire, and therefore, chances of success were fifty percent or lesser. Besides, this was a time that technology had yet not advanced to have the fire-and-forget missiles which today’s aircraft have. Meaning, back then, an aircraft or ship could engage only when at line-of-sight or when visible to each other. Under such circumstances, the odds of success were difficult to predict; this is where the torpedoes came into play. While the early torpedoes still required line-of-sight visibility of enemy ship to fire, it could be done from a distance and that too surreptitiously from under water. It would be too late for the unsuspecting enemy to take counter-measures; in fact, there were very few counter-measures available, and therefore, the battleships with torpedoes were guaranteed success.

With the advent of technology, quite a lot changed in the torpedo world. Today, torpedoes are smart and can be silent when fired. They can target ships and submarines, and more importantly, few of them can move as fast as an aircraft. With ships and submarines still moving in the lesser than 80-knot range, these super-fast torpedoes moving at 200+ knots could easily seek and destroy. How’s that for speed?

Well, now that we are clear on the history, let’s get to know these deadly speedsters.

List of Fastest Torpedoes

Torpedoes
Speed
VA – 111 Shkval Supercavitation Torpedo
200 knots [230.2 mph or 370.6 kmph]
Hoot
194.3 knots [223.6 mph or 360 kmph]
Superkavitierender Unterwasserlaufkörper [Barracuda]
97.13 knots [111.8 mph or 180 kmph]
Black Shark Torpedo
50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
DM2A4 Seehecht [SeaHake mod 4]
50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
MU90 Impact
50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
F21 Heavyweight Torpedo
50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
Torpedo 62
40 knots [46 mph or 74 kmph]
MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo
40 knots [46 mph or 74 kmph]
Khishchnik [Concept]
215.9 knots [248.5 mph or 400 kmph]
Here is the list of torpedoes. Each one is discussed below.

------------------------------************-------------------------------

1. VA – 111 Shkval Supercavitation Torpedo

Source

The Shkval is a testimony to many of the ingenious innovations from Russia. Shkval takes a position quite close to the Ekranoplans when it comes to ingenuity. However, their purposes are quite different. The Shkval is one of the fastest known torpedos in the world and is part of the Russian Navy since 1977. Much like what we saw under the history of torpedos, the Shkval was developed to handle the threat of nuclear submarines of enemy countries. And it does its work in style. Until 2005, barring Russia, there was no other country which could boast of a torpedo that could do four times the speed of any other known torpedoes. Here are the stats.

  • Torpedo: VA – 111 Shkval
  • Country: Russia
  • Top Speed: 200 knots [230.2 mph or 370.6 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 50 knots [57.55 mph or 92.66 kmph]
  • Weight: 2,700 kg
  • Warhead: 210 kg [Conventional or Nuclear]
  • Range: 10 – 15 km
  • Guidance System: Autonomous Inertial Guidance
  • Status: In production [1977 onwards]

Readers may wonder, how the Shkval can achieve aircraft like speed underwater? The answer lies in the structure and the principle on which the torpedo works. The nose of the Shkval is hollow releasing air bubbles as it travels through the water. The air bubbles create a cushion of air around the torpedo reducing the water drag. With the reduced water drag and the rocket engine, the Shkval can sail through at near-aircraft-speed. This principle is called supercavitation. Shkval is a supercavitation torpedo.

So good is this technology that few other countries like Iran, Germany and the U.S. are developing or already developed similar torpedoes. China went one step further in using this technology. China intends to develop a supercavitation submarine capable of travelling at 6000 kmph. If that happens, it would be interesting to see a submarine out running a torpedo. Cool stuff in my opinion!

2. Hoot

Source

Hoot is another supercavitation torpedo but coming from the Iranian arsenal. It is tough to say if it was built indigenously by them or with help. Notwithstanding that fact, Iran is only the second country to have a supercavitation torpedo other than Russia.

  • Torpedo: Hoot
  • Country: Iran
  • Top Speed: 194.3 knots [223.6 mph or 360 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 50 knots [57.55 mph or 92.66 kmph]
  • Weight: Not Available
  • Warhead: Not Available
  • Range: 10 km
  • Guidance System: Guidance System present
  • Status: In production [2006 onwards]

You can see the wake formation at 0:29

The near identical structure and configuration to the Shkval make it a suspect for Russia’s involvement. However, very difficult to arrive at a conclusion considering that most of the information will remain classified.

Coming back to the Hoot, the name means whale in Iranian and was first test-fired in 2006 during the Iranian military exercise – the “Great Prophet”. Whether Russia was involved or not, Iran owns one of the most potent torpedoes in the world.

3. Superkavitierender Unterwasserlaufkörper [Barracuda]

Source

Germany is one of the NATO nations (the U.S. being the other) to get to the prototype stage of a supercavitation torpedo development. The Barracuda never made it to the production stage though. At the development stage, the Barracuda was many times better than the original Russian Shkval. The German Barracuda had a better maneuverable propulsion system allowing the torpedo not only to be maneuvered but also move faster underwater. The Barracuda could do a claimed 400 kmph (in fact, few sources even claimed 800 kmph), and if it was so, then Barracuda was easily the fastest one.

  • Torpedo: Barracuda
  • Country: Germany
  • Top Speed: 97.13 knots [111.8 mph or 180 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: Unavailable
  • Weight: Not Available
  • Warhead: Not Available
  • Range: 10 – 12 km
  • Guidance System: Proposed to have a Guidance System
  • Status: Shelved at Prototype Stage [2005]

The speed and maneuverability meant that the Barracuda could not only hit targets precisely but also act as anti-supercavitation torpedo; in other words, it could stop a Shkval if it ever was fired at a German vessel; this was, by far, the first ever proposed countermeasure to supercavitation torpedoes. However, the Barracuda never made it beyond the prototype stage, and by 2006, the project was shelved for good.

Despite the shelving, the project gives hope for developing countermeasures to supercavitation torpedoes in the future.

4. Black Shark Torpedo

Source

The next torpedo on the list appears to be on a standstill when compared with the supercavitation torpedoes. But readers should not make the mistake of discounting its deadly trait. The Black Shark is one of the most potent torpedoes with few of its configuration remaining classified. In the torpedo world of heavyweights, the Black Shark comes right at the top and can move at some decent speeds.

  • Torpedo: Black Shark
  • Country: Italy
  • Top Speed: 50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 18 knots [20.7 mph or 33.4 kmph]
  • Weight: Not Available [Heavy Weight Category]
  • Warhead: Unavailable [Classified Information]
  • Range: 50 km
  • Guidance System: Fibre Optic Wire Guided
  • Status: In Production [2004 onwards]

The only concern with the supercavitation torpedos was their firing range. The torpedo had to be fired within ten to fifteen km of the enemy vessel; this meant that the vessel had to carry the torpedo close to the enemy vessel. The firing vessel was, therefore, in danger of being detected and destroyed rather than taking out the enemy.

The Black Shark mitigates this risk of proximity that Shkval carried. Though not as fast as the supercavitation counterparts, it can still be fired from a distance and maneuvered to hit the target. That makes the Black Shark a safe alternative to the supercavitation torpedoes.

5. DM2A4 Seehecht [SeaHake mod 4]

Source

The DM2A4 Seehecht is a torpedo originating from Germany and one with the longest range in the world. The extended version of the SeaHake increases the firing range to 140 km from 50 km. It is also one of the latest entrants to the torpedo world.

  • Torpedo: SeaHake mod 4
  • Country: Germany
  • Top Speed: 50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 15 knots [17.3 mph or 27.8 kmph]
  • Weight: 1530 kg
  • Warhead: 260 kg
  • Range: 140 km [Extended Version]
  • Guidance System: Full Autonomous to Full Manual Operator Mode possible
  • Status: In Production [2004 onwards]

The SeaHake already has international customers which include Israel, Pakistan, Spain, Turkey and Colombia. The list is expected to expand with the SeaHake’s firing range. Interestingly, Germany shelved the supercavitating Barracuda for the SeaHake, which is not very difficult to understand considering the safety of the firing vessel (or the firing range).

6. MU90 Impact

Source

MU90 is a lightweight torpedo developed for anti-submarine warfare. Italy and France jointly develop the MU90. The MU90 is one torpedo which also has an anti-torpedo role under the name MU90 Hard Kill. It is an advanced torpedo with fire-and-forget technology and can be fired from ships and aircraft.

  • Torpedo: MU90
  • Country: Italy and France
  • Top Speed: 50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 15 knots [17.3 mph or 27.8 kmph]
  • Weight: 304 kg
  • Warhead: 32.7 kg
  • Range: 23 km
  • Guidance System: Acoustic Homing
  • Status: In Production [1991 onwards]

At the moment, the MU90 is in use in France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Egypt, Morocco, Poland and Australia.

7. F21 Heavyweight Torpedo

Source

The F21 is another heavyweight torpedo built for the French navy to replace the ageing F17s. It was originally envisaged to be developed as a collaboration between France and Italy but eventually built by France alone. The F21 was to be a development over the Italian Black Shark torpedo.

  • Torpedo: F21
  • Country: France
  • Top Speed: 50 knots [57.6 mph or 92.7 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 20 knots [23 mph or 37.1 kmph]
  • Weight: 1500 kg
  • Warhead: Not available
  • Range: 57 km
  • Guidance System: Wire-Guided Acoustic Homing
  • Status: In Production [2018 onwards]

If readers have watched the video, then it would be easy to fathom that it is advanced enough to differentiate between noise, neutral targets and the real target. That makes it a deadly proposition in war situations. Just before the strike is when the torpedo accelerates to its maximum speed to unleash maximum impact.

8. Torpedo 62 [Export Version: Torpedo 2000]

Source

Torpedo 62 is a heavyweight torpedo developed by Saab for the Swedish Navy. Although it took a long development time, Saab eventually delivered the torpedo to the Swedish army by 2004 and the navy by 2010. The torpedo has an export version as well.

  • Torpedo: Torpedo 62
  • Country: Sweden
  • Top Speed: 40 knots [46 mph or 74 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 20 knots [23 mph or 37.1 kmph]
  • Weight: 1400 kg
  • Warhead: High Explosive
  • Range: 40 km
  • Guidance System: Acoustic Homing
  • Status: In Production [2004 onwards]

The torpedo can be used against submarines and surface vessels and can be launched from submarines, surface vessels or coastal installations.

9. MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo

MK54 on Destroyer USS Ross
MK54 on Destroyer USS Ross | Source

American Raytheon develops Mark54 Lightweight Torpedo for the American Navy. It can be launched from a surface vessel, submarine, attack helicopter or aircraft.

  • Torpedo: MK54
  • Country: United States of America
  • Top Speed: 40 knots [46 mph or 74 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 20 knots [23 mph or 37.1 kmph]
  • Weight: 276 kg
  • Warhead: 43.9 kg
  • Range: 18 km
  • Guidance System: Acoustic Homing
  • Status: In Production [2003 onwards]

The MK54 serves the American Navy, Royal Air Force, Indian Navy, Royal Thai Navy and the Royal Australian Navy.

Special Mention: Khishchnik

Artist's Impression
Artist's Impression

We started with a supercavitation torpedo, and we will be ending with one. What’s more, it is related to the same torpedo – Shkval. The Russians are developing the next generation supercavitation torpedo which is expected to be better than the Shkval. Not only will the new generation torpedo be faster, but it will also have a better firing range than the Shkval. Also, it will have a better guidance system. All of these points mean that the Khishchnik will be way more potent and deadlier than the Shkval.

The expected stats are as follows:

  • Torpedo: Khishchnik
  • Country: Russia
  • Top Speed: 215.9 knots [248.5 mph or 400 kmph]
  • Launch Speed: 50+ knots [57.55 mph or 92.66 kmph]
  • Range: >15 km
  • Guidance System: Autonomous Inertial Guidance
  • Status: Concept [2022 Expected]

The other factor that Khishchnik will be mitigating is the noise that the Shkval makes as much as the wake that it leaves. The Shkval gives away the position of the firing sub and hence makes it counter-productive to fire the torpedo in the first place. The Khishchnik is expected to be quieter and expected to leave behind the least possible signature.

While all these factors make the Khishchnik extremely dangerous, it is still to be seen if Russia can pull this off.

Whether Russia makes it or not, I do hope we have no reason for such torpedoes to be used. Many times it is interesting to celebrate the innovation than putting the innovation to use!

Back to Port

As mentioned before, it is interesting to know about these innovations and what they can achieve in the environment that they operate. I hope the Shkval inspires the development of deep-sea exploration submarines than more devastating weapons. There is always hope, and that is what we will conclude with!

And I do hope readers had fun getting to know the fastest torpedoes!!

Which Torpedo was interesting to know about?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Savio Koman

Comments

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    • Savio Dawson profile imageAUTHOR

      Savio Koman 

      7 months ago from Mumbai, India

      Hello Eric,

      Yeah, me neither going anywhere near the water with these things lurking in... :) :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      7 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So cool My boy and I will check this out together. (perhaps a bit long for a sitting) Incredible the speed - no way. Wow. Man I think I will not be a sailor.

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