Soviet Hydro-Bionics

Flag Bio-mimic submarine technology, when underwater vehicles use propulsion mechanisms inspired by marine wildlife instead of the propellers (‘screws’) is a hot topic. Firms such as Boston Engineering's Advanced Systems Group and Black River are developing bio-mimicking underwater drones and submersibles:

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Boston Engineering BioSwimmer (left), Black River BR1000 (right).

The technology is only now reaching viability, but this line of research is not as new as you might think. During the Cold War Soviet scientists experimented with a range of bio-mimicking submersibles including manned prototypes and torpedo-like devices. Photos and information is very rare.

Design was carried out at "Department 2346" Leningrad Military Mechanical Institute ("Voenmehe"). Within 234, Department 30 was responsible primarily for Torpedo design but iIn the late 1950s it had also been responsible for the Proteus family of Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs) used by Spetsnaz.

Hydro-Bionic torpedo

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In 1969 the Department's Student Design Bureau (SKB), led by Professor E.P. Nosov, developed a two-seater submarine with fish-mimicking “fin propulsion”. Instead of a propeller, the submarine was propelled by a mechanical tail which moved approximately like a fish. The Afalina-1 (Афалина-1) competed against other shipbuilding projects at the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy (VDNKh) in Moscow in 1970, where it was awarded a Gold Medal.

Hydro-Bionic torpedo
Soviet Torpedo-based hydro-bionic propulsion testbed

Bio-mimicking weapons do not appear to have entered service. Follow-on research was civilian focused and was demonstrated in Russia and Europe.

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