(Some spoilers ahead for “The Fate of the Furious.”)
“The Fate of the Furious” doles out over-the-top action by even the “Fast & Furious” franchise’s standards, capping off the movie with an insane chase over a frozen Russian bay. In the scene the protagonists race a submarine to a set of sea locks — an underwater gateway — in an effort to block the sub from escaping into the open ocean.
The scene includes military vehicles firing missiles at cars, harpoons tearing Lamborghini doors off, and all kinds of explosions. But the coup de grace of the situation is when the submarine surfaces through the ice, ripping up the surface and nearly sinking the cars as they flee the huge vessel.
But the scene also raises a big question: Could a submarine (and its torpedoes) catch speeding cars?
The answer: probably not.
We asked Brian Louden from Science Channel’s New MythBusters to weigh in on a number of the most seemingly ridiculous moments in “The Fate of the Furious.” And here’s what he told TheWrap about the possibility of a submarine overtaking a car in a race.
“Even modern submarines fail to reach basic highway speeds,” Louden told us. “Fifty miles per hour is a strong request when you are pushing through the water even with a nuclear reactor’s worth of power. We know the other vehicles are easily capable of more speed.”
Water is the mitigating factor for sub speed. Even the fastest submarines generally don’t move very fast, because increasing the speed of an underwater vessel also increases its drag. Current U.S. submarines can achieve a speed of about 25 to 30 knots underwater — around 28 to 35 miles per hour.
But putting the cars on ice undercuts their obvious advantage, and gets the submarine back in the game.
As Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) proves, the icy terrain is a major issue. He loses control of his Lamborghini in the ice, and as the Mythbusters note, the lack of traction and control would mean getting the Lambo up to speed would probably be tough. It still would probably beat the sub, but the race would definitely be closer.
But truck driven by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is outfitted with treads, which would help it handle the ice without much issue. That’ll get rid of the traction problem, but as the Mythbusters point out, the treads themselves limit the max speed of the vehicle. That means Hobb’s truck can’t get much faster than the 50 mile-per-hour range. The sub would still probably lose the race, but there’s a chance it could keep pace.
What about that torpedo the sub launched that Hobbs had to redirect at a key moment? That’s a bit of a different story. Torpedoes are usually pretty slow underwater, hitting about the 40-knot range, but faster torpedoes exist. British torpedoes designed to take down high-speed Russian subs can achieve about 70 knots — around 80 miles per hour — and there are rocket-powered Soviet-made torpedoes that can get up to 200 knots underwater, or around 230 miles per hour, using a physics principle called supercavitation.
Underwater, though, drag is still a major issue, which is why torpedoes don’t get going faster than about 40 knots most of the time. Out in the air, like in the movie, a torpedo could probably go significantly faster since it doesn’t have to plow through the water. So it seems plausible a torpedo running along ice could potentially keep up with cars.
But of course, the scene in “Fate of the Furious” is full of vehicles and weaponry doing things they’re not really designed to do. Torpedoes are made for range and speed underwater, so guessing how one would perform sliding over icy terrain is a bit tougher to track.
What’s the verdict, then? In a straight-up race, a car on a normal surface beats a submarine underwater, no question. The cars would also beat out most torpedoes, it seems like, too. But on ice and under fire from missiles and machine guns, the cars lose a lot of their speedy advantage.
So while it’s unlikely the sub could have caught the cars in “Fate of the Furious,” it doesn’t seem impossible. Then again, if Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew had left the sub in the dust (or ice), it would have been a lot less exciting.