Navy seeks new long-range, stealthy and precise, the Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo attack

(Lockheed Martin)

Navy weapons developers are looking for a high-tech, with a greater range and more deadly submarine launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, submarines, and small boats, service officials said.

The service has a new request to the industry, with the demand for proposals and information related to the pursuit of new and improved Mk 48 torpedo control systems, guidance, sonar and navigation technology.

“The Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) torpedo is a heavyweight acoustic-homing torpedo with sophisticated sonar, digital guidance and control systems, digital fusing systems, and propulsion improvements,” William Bank, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman told the Warrior Maven.

Obviously, having a functional and more high-tech deadly torpedo the Navy an ability to hit enemies more efficiently and further standoff ranges, and therefore better able to compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.

The Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo is used by all classes of U.S. Navy submarines as their anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare weapon, including the Virginia class, and future Columbia class, the Bank added.

A Mk 48 torpedo is 21 inches in diameter and weighs 3,520 pounds; it can destroy objectives from five miles and traveling at a speed of more than 28 knots. The weapon can operate at depths of over 1,200 metres and fires a 650-pound high-explosive warhead, available Navy and Lockheed data states.

Navy the pursuit of a new torpedo technologies, in addition to a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal.

Been a few years for the Navy is strengthening its development, the focus on the Mk 48 as a way to the aging of arsenal. The service restarted production of the Mk 48 torpedo mod 7 in 2016.

An earlier version, the Mk 48 Mod 6, has been operational since 1997 and the more recent Mod 7 is in service since 2006.

Lockheed Martin has been working on upgrades for the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7 – which consist of changes to the supervision of the control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver and amplifier components.

“The latest version of the Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) is the mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System. The Mk 48 ADCAP mod 7 CBASS torpedo is the result of a Joint Development Program with the Royal Australian Navy and reached initial operational capability in 2006,” the Bank said.

With Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS electronics to go on the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance department, Lockheed and Navy developers explained.

CBASS technology offers streamlined targeting, quieter propulsion technologies and an ability to work with the improvement of the effectiveness in both shallow and deep water. Also the Mod 7 reduces the vulnerability to enemy countermeasures, and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider range, Lockheed and Navy developers say.

The new technology also includes the modifications to the electronic circuits in the audio signals that are received from the system that allows the torpedo to better function in a submarine environment.

Adjustments to the weapon is an improvement of the acoustic receiver, replacing the guidance and control of hardware with new technology, more memory and an improved processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to the Navy data on the weapon.

Enhanced propulsion, quieting technology, focusing on systems and program expansions, is naturally a significant tactical advantage to Navy submarine combat operations. Attack submarines are often able to work closer to the enemy targets and the coastline unnoticed, reaching areas not normally accessible for ships with a larger draught. This improvement would also, quite possibly, enable attack submarines to provide better support for littoral surface platforms, such as the flat-bottomed Littoral Combat Ships. Working in tandem with the LCS anti-submarine and surface warfare systems, attack submarines with a more capable torpedo can better identify and attack enemy targets in the near coastal areas and shallow water, enemy locations.

A Military Analysis Network report of the Federation of American Scientists, it is further determined that the torpedo makes use of a conventional, high-explosive warhead.

“The MK 48 is propelled by a piston engine with two contra-rotating propellers in a pump jet or shrouded configuration. The engine uses a liquid monopropellant fuel,” the FAS analysis states.

Submarine operators can initially guide the torpedo to its target at the exit of the launch tube, with the help of a thin wire designed to establish the electronic link between the submarine torpedoes, the information says.

“This helps the torpedo to avoid decoys and jamming devices that can be used by the target audience. The wire is severed and the torpedo’s high-powered active/passive sonar guides the torpedo during the final attack,” FAS wrote.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin Sippican was awarded a ‘new deal’ to work on guidance and control technology on the front end of the torpedo, and SAIC was awarded the contract for the afterbody and propulsion section, the Bank explained.

The Mk 48, which is a heavy weapon launched from below the surface, is very different than the surface-launched, lightweight Mk 54 torpedoes fired from helicopters, aircraft and ships.

The Navy of the Mk 48 torpedo is also in service with Australia, Canada, Brazil and the Netherlands.

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