The indigenously built heavyweight torpedo, Varunastra, is scheduled to undergo extensive user trials by end 2008 and go into production in 2009. Being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to counter threats from the sea, Varunastra can be fired against hostile submarines and ships. The DRDO’s Visakhapatnam-based Naval Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL) is currently developing the Varunastra.
“We are developing two types of torpedoes. The lightweight anti-submarine torpedo is currently under production. The heavyweight Varunastra requires more user trials before it can be inducted into the Navy. It will undergo extensive trials by the end of this year and will be ready for production in 2009,” a senior NSTL official, who was visiting DRDO facilities in Orissa, told the Hindustan Times. A torpedo, on entering water, performs pre-programmed search patterns, detects and homes in on targets and explodes on impact to destroy/damage them.
A heavyweight torpedo like the Varunastra is fired from a submarine or ship. “This torpedo is wire-guided. In other words, the guidance wire acts as a medium for communication of data between the torpedo and the firing platform (ship or submarine). The wire is also a medium to communicate data to guide the torpedo towards the target during the underwater run,” the NSTL official said. “DRDO has developed guidance wire spools for wire-guided torpedoes like Varunastra. This system has undergone sea trials and performed satisfactorily. DRDO has also developed an onboard instrumentation system for torpedoes.”
The official added that the instrumentation system performs pre-launch communication, monitors health of the torpedo and stores torpedo parameters online.
Despite the strides made in the indigenous production of torpedoes, the Indian Navy still suffers from a handicap: how to train submarine or ship crew in torpedo firing. Use of real torpedoes for training is cost prohibitive, so naval officials train with practice torpedoes. For this purpose, NSTL has designed, developed and produced a ‘drill and practice torpedo’, which is the equivalent of an Italian torpedo, currently available with the Indian Navy. The indigenous drill and practice torpedo is available at one-sixth the cost of an imported torpedo.