The Navy's New Torpedo Will Send Russian and Chinese Subs Running

Kris Osborn

Key point: As more countries build submarines, anti-submarine warfare will become a bigger deal.

The U.S. Navy is now engineering a new, longer range and more lethal submarine-launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, subs and incoming weapons at longer ranges, service officials said.

Many details of the new weapon, which include newer propulsion mechanisms and multiple kinds of warheads, are secret and not publically available. However, senior Navy leaders have previously talked to Scout Warrior about the development of the weapon in a general sense.

Naturally, having a functional and more high-tech lethal torpedo affords the Navy an opportunity to hit enemies at further standoff ranges and better compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.

Progress with new torpedo technologies is happening alongside a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal and re-start production of the Mk 48, which had been on hiatus for several years.

Navy officials did add that some of the improvements to the torpedo relate to letting more water into the bottom of the torpedo as opposed to letting air out the top.

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

Lockheed has been working on upgrades to the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7 – which consists of adjustments to the guidance control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver and amplifier components.

Lockheed developers told Scout Warrior last year that Lockheed is now delivering 20-upgrade kits per month to the Navy.

Part of the effort, which involves a five-year deal between the Navy and Lockheed, includes upgrading existing Mod 6 torpedoes to Mod 7 as well as buying brand new Mod 7 guidance control sections.

The new Mod 7 is also resistant to advanced enemy countermeasures.

Modifications to the weapon improves the acoustic receiver, replaces the guidance-and-control hardware with updated technology, increases memory, and improves processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to Navy information on the weapon.

The Mod also provides a significant reduction in torpedo radiated-noise signatures, a Navy statement said.

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