Indian-Made Torpedo Found Washed-Up On A Beach In Myanmar

Photos of what appears to be an Indian-made torpedo that had washed ashore on a beach in Myanmar began to circulate online yesterday and were regarded as a cause for concern by some of those who came across them. While the Myanmarese military is reported to have launched an investigation into the matter, internet sleuths have highlighted details that point to the torpedo possibly being a training round and could help explain its origin.

Pictures first started to emerge on social media early Wednesday morning after Twitter user @Michael04222710 shared four images of the beached munition. Foreign reports explained that locals initially discovered it in the nearby town of Munaung in Rakhine State while visiting the beach recreationally. Rakhine is located in western Myanmar and its coastline falls directly on the Bay of Bengal. Being that the bay is frequently used for drills by multiple navies, this could explain how the torpedo managed to wash up at this location. Large multinational exercises also take place there. For instance, the Indian Navy this year participated in a naval exercise with the U.S. Navy called Exercise Milan 2022 in late February that happened to take place in the Bay of Bengal.

However, despite many scattered reports of the incident claiming that the discovery was the result of a misfire on the part of the Indian Navy, or otherwise linked to that service, this may not be the case for a number of reasons. Most prominently, the silver-colored torpedo is inscribed with the words ‘D&P torpedo’ as well as the serial number ‘LWT-XP’. That specific designation would imply that the munition is a Shyena Advanced Light Torpedo (TAL), the first indigenous lightweight anti-submarine torpedo to be fielded in India after it began production in 2012.

But here’s the kicker: In March 2017, India and Myanmar agreed upon a $37.9 million contract to export an undisclosed number of Shyenas to the Myanmar Navy. According to a report published by The Diplomat, Myanmar received the first batch of those torpedos in July 2019. The Diplomat article goes on to explain that the overall delivery was an effort on the part of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to strengthen relations with Myanmar under the pre-established Act East policy formerly known as the Look East policy. This legislation is intended to better cultivate strategic and economic relations between Southeast Asian countries in order to cement itself as a regional power against China. 

India’s armed Shyena torpedoes are pictured here with mostly black paint and a thin orange line. Bharat Dynamic Ltd
India’s armed Shyena torpedo is pictured here with an even different design, this time with the orange stripe featured around the warhead. Indian Defence Affairs

Developed by the Naval Science and Technological Laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the Indian Navy, the Shyena torpedo is nine feet in length and was engineered to be launched by certain ships, submarines, and helicopter types belonging to the Indian Navy. However, while the color orange seems to be commonly included in an armed Shyena’s design in some capacity, the specific silver coating paired with the thick orange stripe that can be seen in the photos may not. This further supports the argument that it is a training round being that bright colors are often used to ease the recovery of such munitions after training exercises. Not only that, but ‘D&P’ could stand for ‘drill and practice’, which is a common term used for inert training weapons and munitions.

Once again, this is all unconfirmed and any munition should be treated as live and deadly regardless of if it could be inert or not. Even if weapons don’t have a warhead, they can have other dangerous substances and they should never be approached up-close by bystanders.

Another Twitter user aptly pointed out that the Myanmar Navy had somewhat recently issued a warning alerting the local public of upcoming naval exercises that were scheduled to occur between June 23 and July 9. While it is unclear whether or not citizens of this specific coastal village in Rakhine received the message, the notice implored that civilians avoid the area during the established timeframe, but provided no further details as to the specific exercises that would take place. 

Although protocol could be different in Myanmar, warnings like this often precede exercises with some kind of live-fire component, whether that be test firings of torpedoes or anti-ship missiles, but it is not a given. Since 2021, Myanmar has also been involved in what United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has dubbed a civil war, so the country’s military may simply want to do what they can to keep the local population as far removed from defense exercises as possible.

One such exercise that would also line up with the timeline offered by the Myanmar Navy’s alert is called Sea Shield 2022. The training event began on July 1 and was held off the coast of Rakhine where the unarmed torpedo was found. According to local news sources, this year’s Sea Shield is purported to have included 20 warships made up of both frigates and submarines as well as helicopters flown in by Myanmar’s Air Force. Twitter users have even shared snapshots ostensibly of the exercise in response to the initial report of the washed-up torpedo, and in them, at least three rounds can be seen mid-launch from a ship’s deck. One of the munitions is clearly depicted with a thick orange stripe similar to that of the one discovered ashore.

Screenshot of a Myanmarese newscast covering the Sea Shield 2022 exercise. Screenshot from Twitter
Screenshot of a Myanmarese newscast covering the Sea Shield 2022 exercise. Screenshot from Twitter

As mentioned earlier on, training torpedoes often used in exercises like Myanmar’s Sea Shield are typically retrieved after being launched, but reports that the weather during this year’s training event was particularly unsatisfactory could help explain how the torpedo managed to get away.

This incident is also far from the first time that military equipment has ended up in the hands of the locals that populate coastal towns across the globe, with a U.S. Air Force BQM-167A target drone loaded with decoy expendables having washed up on West Palm Beach just last year. In 2020, an Indonesian fisherman even reeled in a Chinese underwater drone near the Selayar Islands. 

It will be interesting to see what comes of the wayward torpedo. We will keep you informed if we find out more about its fate.

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