In the final scene of "The Hunt for Red October" (1990) captain Tupolev's submarine is destroyed by an incoming torpedo, initially fired by his own ship.

Why didn't he (or any of his crew) use the torpedo's radio-self-destruct mechanism to destroy it before it actually hit his boat?

Though the final scene is filmed in a rush, I can clearly see that there was enough time. The first officer could spend those two 2-3 seconds on pushing the button instead of giving the pathetic talk to his captain.

Am I correct? Is this a plot whole (rather intended -- as movie would end completely differently) or did I miss something obvious?

  • 6
    Was there a self-destruct? Do you have any evidence of that?
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 10:41
  • @Paulie_D I think, I do. Self-destruct sequence was used for American torpedo about 10 minutes earlier in the movie. And as far as I'm concerned cold war technology development was equal if not nearly identical between USSR and USA (whatever USSR was not able to invent itself, it was stealing from USA). So, the question is exactly opposite -- do you have any evidence that torpedo self-destruction technology was not available on Russian submarines?
    – trejder
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 10:48
  • Self destructing torpedo US patent was filled in 1945 and made public nearly 20 years later. Can't imagine that USSR wasn't able to invent the same technology / steal it for another 20 years, until 1980, when movie events occurs.
    – trejder
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 10:49

2 Answers 2


Although there is no evidence one way or the other that the Soviet torpedoes had the same self-destruct capability as the US ones they were probably turned off.

Earlier, a Soviet torpedo fails to detonate when it strikes the Red October...due to "safety features" being enabled.


Capt. Vasili Borodin: Torpedo impact, 5 seconds.

[the torpedo slams into the bow of Red October and breaks up on impact]

Commander Bart Mancuso: I'll be damned!

Jack Ryan: What happened?

Commander Bart Mancuso: Combat tactics, Mr. Ryan. By turning into the path of the torpedo, the Captain closed the distance before it could arm itself.

Jack Ryan: So that's it?

Captain Ramius: Not quite. Right now Tupolev is removing the safety features on all his weapons. He won't make the same mistake twice.

Konovalov Crewman: Torpedo, Dead Ahead!

Andrei Bonovia: [to Captain Tupolev] You arrogant ass! You've killed us!

[just moments later, the Konovalov explodes.]

Of course, this is a movie construction for dramatic purposes...no such final scene appears in the original novel where, in fact, the Konovalov is literally rammed and crushed by the Red October.

The Red October rammed the Konovalov just aft of midships at a thirty-degree angle. The force of the collision ruptured the Konovalov‘s titanium pressure hull and crumpled the October‘s bow as if it were a beer can.

The Konovalov had had full watertight integrity set. It did not make a difference. Two compartments were instantly vented to the sea, and the bulkhead between the control room and the after compartments failed a moment later from hull deformation. The last thing that Tupolev saw was a curtain of white foam coming from the starboard side.

  • Voting up as a great attempt of answer, but this does not answer the question as per my feeling. As is is partially explained in part of discussion actually cited by you (and partially in other dialogues), safety features of each torpedo causes it to be fired unarmed and arm itself around 400 feet from shooting submarine. By setting safety features to zero, captain Tupolev caused all its torpedoes to be fired already armed. Nothing else. In other words, safety features has nothing to do radio-controlled self-destruction features -- in my opinion.
    – trejder
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 13:30
  • 1
    I can't prove something they might have since there is no evidence that they do have it in the first place....merely supposition. The whole thing a a movie construction....it doesn't have to have any basis in reality.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 16:54

Torpedoes fall into three basic categories: Unguided, Self-guided, and Wire guided.

Unguided torpedoes cannot be remotely detonated, they have no communication with the mothership.

Self-guided torpedoes usually cannot be remotely detonated, they have no communication with the mothership.

Wire-guided torpedoes can be remotely detonated because they are steered via a long set of communications wires. The disadvantage is that the controlling ship can't manoeuvre as well without risking breaking the wire. Some of them will transition to a different mode of operation if the wire is broken.

Radio-guided is possible, but they tend only to work well for surface ships with surface targets where the amount of water between transmitter and receiver can be kept to a minimum.

The most likely explanation therefore is that it was either a simple homing torpedo or a wire-guided torpedo where the wire was broken somehow during the fight. In either case it would not have been abortable.

  • You explanation pretty does the job for the reality, but either I'm mistaken or it fails completely, when it comes to the movie. I don't know, if you have seen the movie itself, but we there was a third torpedo (next to those two mentioned in Paulie_D's answer) shot out in the movie. The very first one, shot out by an American ship (actually thrown into the water). Both "exploding" torpedoes (i.e. the one mentioned by me and the one that destroyed Konovalov) were clearly not wire-guided and yet the first one (mentioned by me) was ordered to self-destruct (and did so), presumably by radio.
    – trejder
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 19:43
  • So, based on the fact that the first torpedo was not wire-guided and was destroyed, I assumed that Konovalov's one could also be destroyed this way. Your answer explains that it was not possible for both torpedoes (as hole in a plot) and stands perfectly for the reality. For the movie itself, the Paulie_D's answer (about disabling safety features) is better. It is arguable (again, in reality), if self-destruction system can be disabled, but we're not talking about reality, but about the movie.
    – trejder
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 19:46
  • 2
    @trejder I may have to review the scene again, it's been a few years. From what I've read about various torpedo designs, radio guidance is sometimes used for surface or especially aircraft launched torpedoes. It is generally not used from submarines because the much greater amount of water between the controller and the torpedo severely limits the range. Also the data cable for a wire guided device is not particularly thick and is not always easily visible. The "safety feature" that would have been removed merely arms the detonator after a certain number of prop revolutions and is unrelated.
    – Perkins
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 18:46

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