Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), a stock exchange listed Defence Public Sector Unit (DPSU) has dispatched the first First production Varunastra Heavy Weight Torpedo delivered to the Indian Navy on 21 November. Varunastra has been developed by the Visakhapatnam (Vizag) based Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). BDL is the Production Agency for manufacturing of Varunastra. The torpedo is being manufactured at BDL’s Visakhapatnam Unit. To support Varunastra and other naval products, BDL’s Vizag unit is also setting up of state-of-the-art Central Stores.
The first production unit of Varunastra has taken nearly 1.5 years to deliver. On 11 June 2019, BDL signed the contract to supply 63 units of Varunastra HWT to the Indian Navy worth of Rs 1,187.82 crores.
NSTL had supplied the first Varunastra to the Indian navy on Jun 30, 2016. As per the data gathered in defence exhibitions, Varunastra torpedoes are about seven to eight metre long, weighing around 1500 kg and can be used against targets in 40 km range up to 400 meters depth. The torpedo can travel at 74 kmph with a warhead of 250 kg. The torpedo can be launched by ship and submarines. It is electrically propelled with advanced automatic and remote-controlled guidance systems including the GPS. The torpedo uses its own intelligence in tracking the target. A transducer gives it capability for a wide angle of manoeuvre making it capable of targeting submarines from both top and bottom.
The Indian Navy plans to equip heavyweight torpedo capable assets with Varunastra which includes the Kolkata class destroyers, Rajput class destroyers, Delhi class destroyers, Kamorta class anti-submarine warfare corvettes and Talwar class frigates.
Varunastra is already being tested from the Sindughosh class or the 877 EKM or the Russian Kilo-class but may not see induction in the near future. “Currently the HWT used by the 877 EKM is 53-65 steam gas wake homing against ships and (Telenavodyashaya electircheskaya camonavodyashaya torpeda) TEST71ME wire-guided electric against Submarines. INS Chakra uses TE2 HWT which is universal. On Shishumar-class submarine or the HDW 209s, it is SUT wire-guided torpedo. Indian Navy ships use (camonavodyashaya electricheskaya torpeda) CET65 against Submarines. Scorpene submarines which are called the Kalvari-class submarines in India is currently using upgraded SUT torpedos. Kalvari Class in future has a choice between F21P and Sea Hake torpedoes which is being procured under a different acquisition process. Blackshark torpedo contract was not concluded due to blacklisting of Finmeccanica which owns Whitehead Alenia the makers of Blackshark. IN has floated an RFP for the heavyweight torpedoes for surface ships,” said Cmde Arun Kumar (Retd) who is an ex submariner and who had steered the Scorpene Project from inception.
Dr Satheesh Reddy, Chairman DRDO, who attended the dispatch said that BDL should gear up for new programs of Advanced Light Torpedo Shyena (ALWT) and Electrical Heavy Weight Torpedo Takshak (EHWT).
BDL Vizag foundation stone was laid on October 30, 2013, to manufacture lightweight torpedoes, heavyweight torpedoes and related weapon systems such as mines and decoys. The unit is located close to the R&D house NSTL and the customer Indian Navy. Indian Navy’s Eastern Naval Command is located in Vizag which has important facilities like the Naval Dockyard, Conventional and nuclear submarine bases and training centres. The navy is building a new base INS Varsha in Rambilli which is closer to Vizag.