The Virginia-class USS North Dakota (SSN 784) submarine is seen during bravo sea trials in this U.S. Navy handout picture taken in the Atlantic Ocean August 18, 2013. The Navy commissioned its newest attack submarine North Dakota, during a ceremony October 25, 2014, at Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, defense officials announced. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout
The U.S. Navy is testing a new variant of the MK 48 submarine-fired torpedo that’s more accurate, packs a bigger punch, and can engage targets at a longer range, Scout Warrior reports.
At 21 inches in diameter and weighing more than 3,500 pounds, the MK48 can target foes up to five miles away, speeding toward them at more than 28 knots. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the torpedo, is set to deliver 250 MK 48’s in the next five years.
While many of the specific details surrounding the prototype torpedo are unavailable to the public, senior Navy leaders have publicly discussed the prototype in a general sense, Scout Warrior reports.
“There is prototyping going on for new versions of underwater weapons with significant underwater range and a wider variety of payloads. We are now coming up with effects that better enable us to provide a broader range of options for future commanders,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, director of undersea warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Translated from military jargon, they’re testing a more versatile, more lethal torpedo. At a time when Russia and China are emerging as near-peers with the U.S. in their undersea military capabilities, the greater range, lethality and accuracy of the MK 48 will be a welcome addition to the U.S. Navy’s arsenal.
According to Scout Warrior, the new MK 48 will be the first upgrade to U.S. torpedoes since the MK 48 Mod 7 was put into service in 2006. The new variant will have an improved acoustic receiver, new guidance-and-control hardware, and improved memory and processing power for better performance against evolving threats.
The new MK 48 heavyweight torpedo is just one of the 20 upgrades Lockheed Martin supplies to the Navy every month, according to senior Lockheed official, Tom Jarvo.
“A heavyweight torpedo is unmatched in its ability to sink things,” Richard said about the 650-pound high-explosive warhead. “The Mk 48 is a unique capability in the fleet.”
Navy Prototypes More Lethal New High-Tech Mk 48 Heavyweight Torpedo
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.
Tom Jarbeau, Director and General Manager of Targets, Torpedoes and Sensors, Lockheed Martin, told Scout Warrior in an interview 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.
Alongside Lockheed’s work to upgrade the guidance technology on the torpedo, the Navy is also preparing to release a Request for Proposal, or RFP, to industry for a completion to build new Mk 48s.
Upgrades to the guidance control section in includes the integration of a system called Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS – electronics to go into the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance section, Jarbeau explained.
“This provides streamlined targeting and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider frequency band,” Jarbeau said.
Jarvo added that the new technology involves adjustments to the electronic circuitry in order to make the acoustic signals that are received from the system that allow the torpedo to better operate in its undersea environment. @scout.com
Mk 48 Mod 7 CBASS submarine torpedoes
The CBASS broadband sonar makes the torpedo more effective against emerging submarine classes in the harshest of acoustic environments, Lockheed Martin officials say. The Mark 48 Mod 7 CBASS torpedo uses modern commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies in an open-architecture computing environment, and can be improved with regular hardware and software upgrades.
(Edit: HD) Mk 48 Mod 7 CBASS schematic, the US Navy’s current heavyweight torpedo. Sonar transducer in front followed by the electronics, warhead, fuel tank, and engine. @imgur.com
The Mark 48 Mod 7 torpedo is standard armament for the Navy’s fleet of Los Angeles-, Virginia-, and Seawolf-class fast attack submarines, as well as Ohio-class ballistic-missile and cruise-missile submarines.
Mk 48 Mod 7 CBASS schematic, the US Navy’s current heavyweight torpedo. Sonar transducer in front followed by the electronics, warhead, fuel tank, and engine. @imgur.com
The Lockheed Martin Corp. Mission Systems and Training segment in Washington is building the Mark 48 Mod 7 CBASS heavyweight torpedo with advanced common broadband advanced sonar system for expanded operational capabilities for shallow waters along coastlines and inside harbors, as well as in the deep-water open ocean.
The CBASS torpedo also has the ability of multiband operation with active and passive homing; advanced counter-countermeasure capabilities; effectiveness against low-Doppler shallow submarines, fast deep diving submarines, and high-performance surface ships; autonomous fire-and-forget operation or wire-guide capability to enable post-launch monitoring and updates via the submarine combat system; and running Otto Fuel II as the propellant.
Detail: CBASS fuel tank containing Otto II fuel (wire reel on the right). @imgur.com
The Mark 48 Mod 7 CBASS torpedo can transmit and receive over a wide frequency band and use broadband signal processing techniques to improve the torpedo’s search, acquisition, and attack, Lockheed Martin officials say. @militaryaerospace.com
Primary Function: submarine-launched heavyweight torpedo
Manufacturer: Mod.1: Gould, Inc. / Honeywell ADCAP: Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon)
Power Plant: swash-plate piston engine; pump jet (Otto fuel II)
Diameter: 21 inches (533 mm)
Length: 19 feet (5,79 m)
Weight: 3434 lb (1558 kg), original // 3695 lb (1676 kg), ADCAP
Range: > 25 NM (46 km)
Depth: > 1200 feet (365 m), officially // 800 meters (2620 feet), estimated
Speed: > 30 knots (56 km/h), officially // 55 knots (102 km/h), estimated
Warhead: 650 lb (295 kg)
In Service: 1971 – present (Mod 1) // 1988 – present (ADCAP)
Users: US Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy, Brazilian Navy Data @seaforces.org