Rear view of a Soviet 533mm torpedo as part of a monument in Russia. Possibly a Type 53-38 torpedo.
Source: Georg Pik - © Public domain
The Type 53-38 is a World War 2 era heavyweight torpedo of Soviet origin. It is a near direct copy of an Italian design, which proved more reliable than Soviet interwar designs. Being the main Soviet family of torpedoes in World War 2 the Type 53-38 was produced in very large numbers.
The Type 53-38 is based using proven components of the Whitehead / Fiuma 53-F torpedo that the USSR acquired from Italy in 1932. It is a near direct copy that uses the engine, fuel system and gyroscope of the 53-F. The number of preselectable speed settings was reduced from four to three. This torpedo is launched from its tubes by air pressure or a small powder charge.
The Type 53-38 is a straight running torpedo. A gyroscopic system maintains the course. There is no homing system or wire guidance. The 53-38 is designed for use against surface vessels and runs near the surface of the water.
The Type 53-38 has a 300 kg TNT warhead with an impact fuse. The improved 53-38U has a larger 400 kg warhead, which at a later stage in World War 2 was fitted with a magnetic fuse. Maximum speed is 44.5 knots, resulting in a 4 km range. The maximum range of 10 km is achieved at the lowest speed setting of 30.5 knots.
The 53-38 is launched by submarines, motor torpedo boats and large surface combatants. The 53-38 proved to be serviceable and reliable when launched from larger vessels such as destroyers and cruisers, whereas earlier Soviet designs were not.
The Type 53-38 was the most widely used Soviet heavyweight torpedo during World War 2. Nearly 1.500 Type 53-38 and 53-38U were launched during the war. These were produced in large numbers, with production continuing at lower pace after the war. This torpedo was also widely exported to Soviet allies in the early Cold War era. Present day the design is obsolete. Yet, some nations retain small numbers of these torpedoes.
The Type 53-39 is a further improved variant of the Type 53-38U. A more powerful engine results in a higher maximum speed of 51 knots.
The Project 183 Bolshevik (NATO: P-6) class motor torpedo boats is one of the early Cold War designs that launches the Type 53-38U torpedo. Over 400 of these motor torpedo boats were produced.
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