Sunk By Its Own Torpedo

John Rogers
30th June 2008, 19:40
The Russian government finally admitted that it was an errant torpedo that sank the KURSK. The Kursk carried torpedoes that were powered by an old WW2 German design, one of which the German navy had stopped using in 1943 due to its instability and danger.


30th June 2008, 19:57
Was it the hydrogen peroxide type ? - it was a peroxide ' Fancy ' torpedo which ran hot and exploded on HMS Sidon killing 13 and sinking the sub alongside.

John Rogers
30th June 2008, 20:19
Sorry Santos the story did not give the type of torpedo,maybe one of our sub members would know.


Gavin Gait
30th June 2008, 20:22
Yes it was a Hydrogen Peroxide powered torpedo that the Kursk was carrying. As Santos says we lost a sub to an explosion due to a copper pipe bursting allowing the Hydrogen Peroxide to leak causing a very rapid heat build up , fire and explosion.

30th June 2008, 20:35
Thanks Davie its amazing that the Russians are still mucking about with those torpedoes, especially on subs the size of the Kursk. Mind you if it had been on a smaller boat it could have wrecked the reactor and then there would be a mess. You just dont know whats going on do you - there must be one hell of a risk of a serious accident in the future. There is also all those old Russian Navy Nuclear subs rotting away up north they must be in danger of leaking radioactive material - god help us all.

Gavin Gait
30th June 2008, 20:42
The reason the Russian Navy has persisted for so long is that a Hydrogen Peroxide powered torpedo is a fast torpedo with a decent range ( speed max around 60knots range in excess of 10,000 yards at 40 knots ) and that they didn't have the battery technology we did in the west. From reports I read not long after the Kursk sank it appears that one or two of the Torpedoes were mishandled on route to the sub before she sailed on that last fateful mission.
6 new torpedoes were send from the factory in southern Russia by train and on one of the stops they had to move them over to another train and at least one of the torps was dropped which would be more than enough to cause fractures in pipe welds , etc. They would have been given a "look over" at the sub base before they fueled them up and put them aboard the Kursk , probably nothing more than checking the paint wasn't scratched by the looks of things.

John Rogers
1st July 2008, 00:05
Thanks for that explanation Dave.


Brian Farrell
1st July 2008, 00:59
The Russians could build a space station and a nuclear sub yet could not get a torpedo modernised, it is all about prestige not priorities, the guys were not that important to them.

1st July 2008, 17:06
The Royal Navy not only had HTP torpedoes, they also built two experimental submarines, HMS Explorer and HMS Excalibur propelled by diesel/elecric and a hydrogen peroxide plant. Of 700 tons standard displacement, 1000 tons dived, they were reported to be capable of 25 knots dived. Explorer was launched in 1954, scrapped in 1963. Excalibur was still in service 1964, but disposed of shortly after that. They were not a success, but an attempt to get high performance in a relatively inexpensive manner. USS Nautilus however, showed the way of the future in submarine warfare.

2nd July 2008, 06:52
The idea of hydrogen peroxide "boosted" diesel engines most probably came off the German War prize Walter ******** otherwise known as H.M.S. Deepwater whose engines were "boosted" in a similiar way and the R.N. ran tests on, I understand she was initially built for practice torpedo recovery and I have seen her down as a Minesweeper but that is not how I remember her. We rafted alongside her at "Vernon" in the 50's when she was used for diving but I am sure she was a Fast Minelayer (her engines being boosted by H.P.) as I stubbed my big toe on one of the mine carraige tracks after a good night at the "Fes Bar" at Southsea which was the haunt of the "Yachties" and a couple of "Tranny's", two of our Crew bumped into each other running out of the front door of the house they shared.

Gavin Gait
2nd July 2008, 11:15
The German Navy had a few different HTP ( High Test Peroxide - Hydrogen Peroxide ) powered test submarines built during WW2. The Type XXI submarine was a modified conventional version of one of those test subs. The engines ran underwater without needing the snorkel raised , it was initially to be used for a very high speed escape from surface ASW assets.

2nd July 2008, 21:30
Of course D.T. I forgot about those damned ungentlemanly weapons that the Germans excelled in, from what I could gather the H.P. system was all a bit risky especially when the German scratch crew who brought "Deepwater" to Britain under the supervision of the R.N. Engineers tried to cause an engine explosion using the H.P. so that the Navy could not use it and that was after the 8thMay. We on the otherhand with the Red V were trying to get rid of that other ungentlemanly weapon mines, both ours and theirs.

5th July 2008, 13:44
it would seem that the Russian Government cannot make up their collective minds:

"The Russian government has finally admitted that the Kursk nuclear submarine was sunk by an explosion caused by a torpedo fuel leak, not a collision with a foreign vessel or a World War II mine.

The Kursk sank on 12 August 2000 killing all 118 crewmembers during a training exercise in the Barents Sea. For two years the government has been unwilling to conclude that one of its nuclear submarines, the pride of the navy, could have suffered a malfunction. The government has also faced criticism for failing to rescue sailors who were trapped inside the sunken vessel.

On 1 July, Russia's Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov revealed that the official investigation into the catastrophe suggested that a torpedo explosion was to blame.

On Friday, Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov confirmed that conclusion. Ustinov said hydrogen peroxide fuel leaking from an unarmed torpedo apparently caused the first explosion inside the submarine's torpedo chamber.
The initial impulse which triggered an explosion of the torpedo was the result of an unusual process of events inside the oxidising agent reserve of the torpedo, Ustinov said at a press conference. He said no one could be blamed for the accident.
A second explosion was 16 times more powerful than the first, according to seismic recordings. This was most likely an armed torpedo detonating in the fire then blazing in the Kursk, Ustinov said. The second explosion almost ripped the Kursk in half killing all but 23 of the submarine's crew. Those survivors are thought to have died within six to eight hours from carbon monoxide poisoning.
However, some experts have long suspected that this was the cause of the accident. Former British submarine commander Captain Richard Sharpe told New Scientist in October 2001 that fuel leaking from a mishandled torpedo was the most probable cause of the disaster.
Hydrogen peroxide propellant is used because it propels a torpedo further and faster than an electrical motor. "


13th July 2008, 09:26
In some respects the Type XXI Submarine is a subject all on it's own. I thought the Type XXI was referred to as the "electro-submarine".

The subs of the day in 1942 were primarily diesel propelled craft, which dived only for short periods, their speed below the surface was poor, almost a walking pace, where as the Type XXI was designed as a pure underwater craft, running for the majority of the time on electrical power provided by huge batteries. Schnorkeling at periscope depth allowed these batteries to be recharged using diesel engines. The Dutch had tried the schnorkel principle before WWII and after the war the "XXI" principle of electro-propulsion was adopted by navies under the modern name "Patrol Submarine".

Going back to the HTP and Walther Turbines. As early as 1937 Adm Donitz after making contact with Professor Walther had tried to influence the German Naval Staff into the possibilities of an Ingolin driven turbine designed by Walther. The first prototype, the V80 underwent trials in the spring of 1940. The V80 (Dwt 80 tons, hence the name) achieved a submerged speed of 23 Kts.

A prototype Atlantic boat the V300 was authorised, this was a 550 ton vessel. Design changes forced this vessel to be scrapped and work proceeded with the V301.Contracts were issued to ‘Blohm and Voss' and to ‘Germania' to build two 250 ton vessels. These were to procure data before embarking on mass production.. Prototypes were to continue in 1943, their classes being the Type XVIIB and the Type XVIII.

U.796 and U.797 were two XVIII ‘Atlantic Boats. Four Type XVII were under construction, of which U.792 and U.794 were commissioned Nov 1943 and U.793 and U.795 were commissioned Feb 1945. U.792 achieved 25kts underwater on trials.
U.792 and U.793 were also documented as Type Wa 201. U.794 and U.795 were also documented as Type Wk 202

Construction and trials were dogged with various problems. I can go into specifics but it is to long to list here.

U.792 to U.795 were never really designed for operational patrols, the operational class design was the XVIIB. 24 were ordered, six were built, U1405 was the first commissioned. Under the Command of OL Wilhelm Rex, she never managed an operational patrol and was scuttled under ‘Operation Regonbogen' 4 may 1945.

(U.1406 suffered similar circumstances went to the USA after being raised in Sept 1945. U1407 became HMS Meteorite.)

After the initial trials of the Type XVII on the 24th May 1944 one hundred large Atlantic Type Type XXVIW, displacing 852 tons were ordered, the first two to be ready in March 1945 and the whole series by Oct 1945.

Factors affection production were various, but notably the difficulty in producing ‘Aurol' hydrogen peroxide fuel. This fuel was used in the ‘Luftwaffe's' V2 weapons and the Navy's allocation would only have supported maybe 70 vessels.

Plans were also proceeding with an even more advanced design that would embody the best of the Type XXVIW AND the Type XXI equipped with either a closed cycle diesel or a Walther turbine adapted to use Oxygen fuel. Non reached fruition.

For me the XXI was a pure ‘electo-boote'.

‘Alles clar'


John Rogers
17th July 2008, 13:01
Twenty three kts submerged,thats pretty good for that time. Thanks for that information.


Big Ears
20th January 2011, 09:36
Have not long been a member so sorry this is rather late posting. Hey what's a couple of years between friends?
My understanding was that after the war the Americans were furthering the development of nuclear power and both the US and UK Admiralty were certain that nuclear boats would be the way of the future. This posed a problem, in the turmoil of post war, who might have this information? If nucs suddenly appeared we would be caught with our pants down. Hence our two HP boats. Nobody thought it was a long term option, as stated, it was too dicey, but it did give us two high speed underwater targets. This allowed us to develop our sonar sets, operating procedures and ship handling tactics to deal with the looming threat.


20th January 2011, 12:05
Ref the Kursk........I thought this may be of interest............

Big Ears
20th January 2011, 13:27
Looks like a smoke screen to me. The gash is on top of Kursk yet the piece of a foreign submarine reported found at the site was the top of a fin. Was the other boat upside down then? Secondly you do not raise all masts whilst surfacing. You get to periscope depth, raise one scope and check that you are not going to get wiped out by a surface vessel before raising anything else. So was she at periscope depth? If so that gash could have been made by a warship, but not another boat. There was some remark about the other boats stabiliser ripping in, but they have two hulls and I don't believe a stabiliser would have the strength to do that much damage. Especially as the other boat would normally be in the shadow zone of the Kursk's props, not going head on. If by some chance it had lost contact it would have gone very slow to listen, making the damage even more unlikely. etc.


20th January 2011, 14:31
Whilst I was at "Vernon" HMS Deepwater the ex Walter ? was alongside, she was an ex-German War Prize. Her main engine's could be H.P. boosted and the RN did I believe do a few trial run's using HP but gave up on her as they considered it far too dangerous.

20th January 2011, 23:03
John Winton's (Lt Cdr John Pratt) " The Submariners"
has a description of what it was like on an HTP boat - sounds hairy in the extreme.

Incidentally the book is a real good read.