Spies, Lies and Secret Weapons
The History of the Shkval Torpedo and Canada
1950s - Research begins in the United States on supercavitation - the technology ultimately used to create the Shkval torpedo. However, rather than using the technology to develop weapons, American researchers focus on high-speed propellers and hydrofoils. The U.S. Navy takes its research in the direction of stealth operations, not high-velocity capabilities.
May 1969 - The Soviet Research Institute of Applied Hydromechanics is created. Scientists there design the first high-speed anti-submarine underwater missile. The new weapon is commissioned into service with the Soviet Navy.
1973 - The American Foreign Materiel Acquisition program is born when Israel captures large quantities of Soviet equipment from Egypt and Syria. Israel shares the weapons with the U.S., and the Pentagon decides it needs a steady supply of Russian arms to test American weaponry.
1977 - After more than a decade of research and development, the Soviet navy secretly introduces the rocket-powered supercavitating Shkval torpedo. By travelling in a gas-generated cavity of air, the weapon can reach speeds not previously thought possible. Although it flies through water at 100 metres per second, the early-version Shkval is not guided and can only travel in a straight line. However, if equipped with a nuclear warhead, it could blast any enemy submarine before there is time to react.
1991 - The Soviet Union is dismantled and the Cold War ends. After Presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin agree to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons from their submarine fleets, the West learns that the rumoured super weapon Shkval really exists.
1998 - There are reports that China has bought around 40 Shkval torpedoes from Kazakhstan, posing a possible threat to American naval forces if they face a battle with China in the Taiwan Strait. Some reports also say the Shkval has been sold to Iran.
January 27, 1999 - In Ottawa, a briefing note is written by a member of J2 (intelligence branch) Science and Technology to the Minister of National Defence about the possibility of acquiring the Shkval torpedo. The document is secret for Canadian, Australian, British and American eyes only. see here
February 1999 - A top secret memo to Canada's Vice Chief of Defence Staff recommends funding the acquisition of the Shkval torpedo.
March 2, 1999 - Minister of National Defence Eggleton approves funding for acquisition of the Shkval torpedo. see here
April 1999 - Jane's Intelligence Review reports that Russia has begun marketing a conventionally armed version of the Shkval torpedo at the IDEX 99 exhibition in Abu Dhabi, the largest Middle East weapons show.
April 3, 2000 - American businessman and retired naval intelligence officer Edmond Pope, 54, is arrested in Moscow on espionage charges. The Russian Federal Security Service accuses him of stealing the secrets of the Shkval torpedo. He is imprisoned and awaits trial.
July 27-28, 1999 - Department of National Defence Scientific Advisor, Dr. Brian Harrison, meets with Russian technical experts in Halifax about the Shkval torpedo. see his report
August 12, 2000 - Russia's Northern Fleet Command loses contact with the Kursk nuclear submarine taking part in naval exercises in the Barents Sea.
August 21, 2000 - After a Norwegian diver reaches the Kursk and finds the cabin is flooded, the Russian navy officially announces that all 118 crew are dead.
October 18, 2000 - A closed trial begins for accused spy Edmond Pope. Lawyers debate whether the Shkval technical reports Pope obtained are classified.
December 2000 - Edmond Pope is sentenced to 20 years in hard labour for espionage. He is the first American to be convicted of espionage in Russia in 40 years.
December 8, 2000 - Canadian Dr. Brian Harrison authors a secret memo to the Minister of National Defence to advise that Russian President Putin might mention the sale of the Shkval to Canada during his upcoming visit. Harrison says Putin has approved the sale. see the full version
December 14, 2000 - Russian President Vladimir Putin pardons Edmond Pope on "humanitarian grounds." He is released and returns home to Pennsylvania.
December 15, 2000 - Canadian military intelligence officer writes a secret briefing note to the Minister, stating that the Canadian government was unaware of Pope's activities in Russia until he was arrested. see document here
December 17, 2000 - Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Canada for a three-day visit. Senior Russian officials say Mr. Putin is eager to discuss arms-control issues with Prime Minister Chrétien.
May 18, 2001 - The Russian government hires Dutch heavy transport company Mammoet to raise the Kursk submarine from 108 metres below water.
September 2001 - British nuclear engineer John Large joins the Kursk salvage operation as head of the nuclear safety committee overseeing the raising of the submarine. Large is given complete access to the plans of the vessel. He is told by Deputy Commander of the Russian Navy, Vice-admiral Mikhail Barskov, that an explosion of the Shkval torpedo caused the sinking of the Kursk.
CBC backgrounder on Russian Oscar class submarines
Scientific American article by Steven Ashley on supercavitation research and the Shkval
Web site from Dutch companies Mammoet and Smit International who raised the Kursk. Details this engineering feat.
All about the Shkval torpedo, from Federation of American Scientists.
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