In the mid-twenties, the command of the Red Army dealt with a number of important issues, including studying the prospects for torpedo armament. The analysis of recent wars has shown that torpedoes with an explosive charge of the order of 250-300 kg are required for the effective destruction of modern ships. The calculations, in turn, demonstrated the impossibility of creating new 450-mm torpedoes with the required power of the warhead. Requires a transition to a larger caliber.
It is noteworthy that even in 1917, the maritime department ordered the creation of a torpedo of an 21 caliber inch (533 mm) in the plant of Lessner (now Dvigatel, St. Petersburg), but the events of that time prevented the completion of work. In the spring of the 18 plant, Lessner stopped production and then worked only as a weapons storage facility. It should be noted that similar projects of torpedo armament were also developed abroad; however, for objective reasons, Soviet industry began to create 533-mm torpedoes only in the mid-twenties.
The general structure of a typical combined-cycle torpedo. Figure Nemaloknig.info
The development of promising weapons for ships and submarines was entrusted to the Special Technical Bureau for Military Inventions of Special Purpose (Ostechbureau), which was headed by engineer and inventor Vladimir Ivanovich Bekauri. This organization, founded in 1921, engaged in various armaments and equipment of various classes and types. One of the areas that Ostechburo was engaged in was mine-torpedo armament for the navy. In 1926, the Office of the former Lessner plant, soon renamed “Engine”, was transferred to the Bureau to speed up work on new torpedoes. Then there was an order to start work on a new torpedo caliber 533 mm.
When developing a new torpedo, Ostebbyuro experts took the existing 45-12 torpedo (product sample 1912) as well as the remaining documentation on the project for the 533-mm torpedo of Lessner's plant as a basis. The head of the new project was P.V. Bekhterev, the main developer - R.N. Korwin-Kossokovsky. Using existing experience and developments in previous projects, the Ostechburo team completed the development of a new project in just a few months. New torpedo was introduced already in 1927 year. In accordance with the new nomenclature introduced in 1924, the project received the designation 53-27 - the first number indicated the caliber of the torpedo in centimeters, and the second indicated the year of creation.
Due to a number of difficulties, the development of the first Soviet torpedo was delayed. Among other things, this led to a change in fleet plans. Thus, it was initially assumed that the new 533-mm torpedoes would become the main armament of the promising Dekabrist I-series submarines. However, by the time the first submarines of this project were commissioned, the new torpedo was not ready. Because of this, shipbuilders had to equip the boat’s torpedo tubes with special insert grilles, which were used to fire the existing torpedoes of the 450 mm caliber.
The Ostehbyuro team did not have much experience in creating torpedoes, which is why the 53-27 project had a number of characteristics. In terms of design, the new torpedo was an enlarged version of the existing 450-mm products with a larger body diameter and heavier warhead. In addition, the increased volume of fuel tanks. In this case, the layout of internal units, internal systems, etc. remained the same.
The 53-27 product had a traditional layout for the torpedoes of that time. The head part of the cylindrical body with a fairing was given to accommodate the fighting compartment with an explosive charge and means of its detonation. Behind the warheads were located fuel tanks, an air tank and some units of the power plant. The main mechanisms of the combined cycle engine, in turn, were located in the tail section of the hull. Due to the increase in caliber (in comparison with the base 45-12), the length of the torpedo increased. The 53-27 in the first version had a length of 6,98 m with a diameter of 533 mm. Also increased the total weight - 1675 kg.
To destroy the target, the new torpedo was supposed to use a high-explosive warhead weighing 200 kg. For comparison, the 45-12 carried half the charge. From the prototype, a new torpedo received two devices to undermine the warhead. It was proposed to use frontal (with four whiskers) and inertial drummers. In order to avoid defeat of the ship carrier, the projectile was equipped with a fuse. He allowed the cocking mechanisms only at a distance 150 m from the carrier.
A combined-cycle machine with a heating apparatus was supposed to set in motion a torpedo. The car had two cylinders located on the axis of the torpedo on either side of the common crankshaft (the so-called double-acting machine). Through the transmission in the form of several shafts with mechanisms, the engine torque was transmitted to the aft propeller. The combined-cycle machine had a heating apparatus with injection and evaporation of water, the design of which was based on the corresponding assembly of the 45-12 product. The applied combined-cycle machine developed a power of about 270 hp. A characteristic feature of the new machine was the lack of choice of mode of operation. The new unit was single-mode and could operate only at maximum power.
Ostebbyuro initially developed two versions of the new torpedo. The 53-27l modification was intended for submarine armament, and the torpedo boats were to carry the 53-27к torpedo. The differences between the two products consisted in the design of external units and the method of launch. The “underwater” version of the torpedo should have been launched from the submarine torpedo tube with the help of compressed gas. Modification "K" was intended for torpedo tubes of the flume type. In this case, the engine start and other procedures required a different approach to implementation.
The development of a new 533-mm torpedo project was completed in 1927, after which the Engine plant began producing pilot batches of this weapon. A simple enterprise for several years led to unpleasant consequences. Employees have lost the necessary skills, which affected the quality of products. The first torpedoes of a new type were not distinguished by high quality workmanship, and also had insufficient characteristics. During the tests, not only low rates were noted, but also technological problems. In particular, problems with depth control were observed, and some products had a leaky case. After identifying such problems, the specialists of Ostechbureau and the manufacturer had to spend a lot of time and effort on fine-tuning the project and correcting the flaws in the weapon.
Nasal 533-mm torpedo tubes of the submarine D-2 "Narodovolets" series I "Decembrist". Photo of Wikimedia Commons
The consequence of these problems and the need to correct them was delaying work. Tests and refinement of the new weapons began in the 1927 year and lasted for several years, ending only in 1930. During this time, the workers of the Dvigatel plant assembled and, together with the Special Technical Bureau, tested about fifty torpedoes in both versions, both intended for submarines and created for the surface fleet. After the completion of all the preliminary works and the correction of the biggest shortcomings, the people's commissariat of defense and the leadership of the defense industry approved the project. In addition, the plant and Ostechburo received permission to fully produce new torpedoes 53-27 with the subsequent delivery of products to the fleet.
The first Soviet torpedo 53-27 differed from the previous 45-12 not only in size, but also in other values of some other characteristics. In addition, there was a noticeable lag in a number of parameters. Due to the increased power of the combined-cycle machine, it was possible to bring the speed up to the 43,5 node, but there was no possibility of changing the speed. The depth of the stroke could vary from 3 to 14 m and was controlled by the available automation. At the same time, the range of travel was reduced to 3700 m. For comparison, 45-12, depending on the set depth of the course, could attack targets at a distance of up to 6 km.
During serial production, the 53-27 torpedo underwent some changes. New series of these weapons are constantly being finalized, which led to some increase in performance. Nevertheless, in the aggregate of parameters, all new versions hardly differed from the basic modification. The most noticeable changes were made to the structure in the early thirties in the so-called. 200 Series. The torpedoes of this release received an updated elongated fighting compartment with 250 kg of explosives. Due to this refinement, the length of the weapon has increased to 7,15 m, and the weight has increased to 1725 kg. Other characteristics have not changed. A slight increase in weight and size could not have a noticeable effect on the characteristics of speed and range: the torpedo could still go as far as 3,7 km at a speed near the 43,5 node. The increased combat unit became interested in the military, as a result of which the torpedoes of the 200 series became the most popular among the entire 53-27 production.
According to various sources, by the 1935, the Dvigatel plant built at least 2-2,5 thousand torpedoes of the 53-27 type in two versions, for the surface and submarine fleets. So, only in 1934, the customer was given more than six hundred torpedoes for submarines and about 220 for ships and boats. In 35, production of the first Soviet torpedoes of its own design was stopped. The product 53-27 had insufficient characteristics, which is why its further production was considered inexpedient. It was necessary to carry out a deep modernization with an increase in the basic characteristics. The development of the project through small modifications in each series was considered unacceptable.
In the early 1930s, the Soviet Union purchased from Italy several samples of modern torpedo weapons, including an 533-mm product, which received the new designation 53F. During the modernization of the torpedo 53-27, it was decided to use some components of foreign development. The Italian torpedo borrowed a hydrostat, a heating apparatus, a pressure regulator, and some other nodes. The torpedo updated in a similar way was put into service in the 1936 year and received the designation 53-36. From the base 53-27, it differed in the composition of components, but not the main characteristics. Dimensions, weight, warhead, speed and range remained at the same level.
It should be noted that 53-36 hardly differed from the basic 53-27, not only in its main characteristics. In the course of the new project, technical and technological problems appeared again, due to which the Navy managed to install only a hundred torpedoes with borrowed units from 1936 to 1938 year. In 38, the unsuccessful product 53-36 was removed from service. In total, only a few thousand torpedoes of the 53-27 and 53-36 types were built and handed over to the customer, with the bulk of the products of the first model in several modifications.
In the spring of 1937, Ostechburo was taken over by the People’s Commissariat of Defense Industry. Later it was transformed into Special Technical Management, and then divided into three separate research institutes. In the fall, several employees of this organization, including the 53-27 project leaders, were arrested. At the beginning of the 1938 of the year V.I. Bekauri and P.V. Bekhterev were shot.
53-27 torpedo production ceased in 1935. Their upgraded version of the 53-36 was produced before the 1938 year. For all the time of development and production of two new torpedoes, the authors of the projects have not been able to eliminate the existing shortcomings and improve the characteristics of the products to an acceptable level. However, until a certain time there was no alternative to such weapons, due to which the fleet did not have to exploit the best torpedoes.
Due to the impossibility of the rapid and complete re-equipment of the fleet with new torpedoes, the 53-27 products were operated until the beginning of World War II. In this case, the first cases of the combat use of such weapons relate to the Soviet-Finnish war. According to reports, during this conflict, the Baltic Fleet used 11 torpedoes 53-27, of which only three hit the target. The destruction of enemy ships was prevented by the low quality of the manufacture of torpedoes, because of which the reliability of the weapon was unacceptably low. This was mainly manifested in the form of numerous blunders.
Shortly before the start of World War II, the fleet’s mines and torpedo department sent a proposal to the Commissariat of Defense to withdraw the remaining 53-27 torpedoes to the second-turn reserve. This meant that the existing old torpedoes should be sent to the rear warehouses, and then removed from service, decommissioned and disposed of. Such a proposal, which had good prospects, was not implemented due to the outbreak of war, which required even outdated weapons to be left in service.
The submarine series I "Dekabrist" - one of the main carriers of torpedoes 53-27. Figure Wikimedia Commons
It is known that during the Great Patriotic War torpedoes of the 53-27 type were used by submarines of the Baltic Fleet (other fleets did not use similar torpedoes). 44 products of this type were used: 19 ships and boats, 23 submarines. Two shots ended with the failure of the equipment with the undermining of the warhead, three - with a successful defeat of the target. Other 18 torpedoes did not reach their goal or passed it. At the same time, the Baltic Fleet had 350 torpedoes 53-27. The low reliability and efficiency of the first Soviet torpedo has received new confirmation.
Due to the extremely low consumption, a large number of obsolete torpedoes with low characteristics remained in warehouses and bases. All this weapon over time was written off and disposed of as unnecessary. From the end of the thirties only torpedoes of newer models with enhanced characteristics were delivered to the fleet. In this regard, the use or even the storage of 53-27 torpedoes was considered unnecessary. The pre-war proposal to transfer obsolete weapons to the reserve of the 2 turn came to practical implementation only by the mid-forties.
The first torpedo, created in the Soviet Union, did not differ high performance. In addition, it left much to be desired and the reliability of its various components. However, in the mid-twenties, the Soviet military fleet did not have a choice, because of which it had to use existing products that could be created and built by domestic experts. Further experience in the development and operation of 53-27 torpedoes with low characteristics made it possible to create a more successful project 53-38. Torpedoes of this type were distinguished by increased characteristics, which allowed them to become one of the main armaments of submarines during the years of the Great Patriotic War. As for the product 53-27, it, despite a lot of problems, has remained in the history of domestic mine-torpedo weapons as the first torpedo created in the Soviet Union.
Shirokorad A.B. Weapons of the domestic fleet. 1945-2000. - Minsk: “Harvest”, 2001