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Navy Develops Torpedo Killing Torpedo

The Navy's experimental Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo launches from the fantail of USS George HW Bush in May. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s experimental Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo launches from the fantail of USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) in May, 2013. US Navy Photo

The Navy has taken its first steps to develop a weapon designed to intercept and destroy guided enemy torpedoes immune to U.S. countermeasures, Naval Sea Systems Command officials told USNI News on Wednesday.

The Surface Ship Torpedo Defense (SSTD) program under development to protect high dollar surface warships — like the Navy’s Nimitz-class (CVN-68) nuclear aircraft carriers — from Soviet developed torpedoes specifically designed to attack large ships like aircraft carriers and large civilian oil tankers.

The tests — conducted in May onboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) — pair a Torpedo Warning System (TWS) towed behind the ship with a highly maneuverable Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT) that seeks and destroys the incoming enemy weapon. The CAT is currently being developed by the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory.

The torpedo warning system is towed behind the ship. When the TWS detects an enemy weapon an operator on the ship decides whether or not to launch the CAT, NAVSEA told USNI News.

Slide from a Naval Sea Systems Command presentation on the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense system. NAVSEA Image

Slide from a Naval Sea Systems Command presentation on the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense system. NAVSEA Image

Development of the SSTD helps cover a serious threat to major U.S. ships from Soviet-designed torpedoes initially developed in the 1960s, naval analyst Norman Friedman told USNI News.

“Torpedoes are an often-unappreciated threat to surface ships,” he said.
“The usual countermeasures are noisemakers intended to decoy an approaching homing torpedo. Unfortunately the Russians use wake-following torpedoes that do not respond to the usual countermeasures at all.”

The Russian Type-53 torpedo includes sensors that detect the churn made by ships underway. Once the torpedo senses the chopped water it will follow a ship in a S-pattern between the wakes until it finds its targets.

“Anyone who buys Russian Kilo-class submarines — almost anyone the U.S. would come into conflict with — uses torpedoes which do not respond to U.S. torpedo countermeasures,” Friedman said.

Russia has heavily exported the Kilo diesel/electric submarine to Southeast Asia and the attack boat is a mainstay of navies in Vietnam, India and China.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy fields 12 Kilos with Soviet-era Type 53-65 wake homing torpedoes with a range of 11.8 miles, according to the soon to be released 16th edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World.

The Type 53-65 torpedoes, in wide use around the world, were developed in the mid 1960s and were the first Russian mass produced torpedo to include the wake homing technology, according to Jane’s Weapons: Naval

As conflicts in the South China Sea intensify and the Pentagon shifts more forces to the Pacific, submarines have been high on the wish lists for countries in the region.

In 2007, a PLAN Song-class submarine surfaced near now-decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), raising questions how effective the Navy was at defending its carrier fleet.

Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, has called for increased research and development into anti-torpedo torpedoes since he took the top Navy job in 2011.

NAVSEA has more testing for the SSTD system scheduled for this year and plans to have the CAT and TWS reach so-called initial operational capability by 2019 and Fleet wide adoption of the system by 2035.

This story has been updated from its original version to include more detailed and current information about the Soviet Type 53-65 wake homing torpedo

  • Adam Strashok

    So the Type 65 torpedo is no longer the US Navys nightmare…interesting

  • bubba_shawn

    Why not have a President declaring that any nation’s submarine who launches a torpedo at any US Navy ship will see nuclear cruise missiles flying to annihilate their cities.

    That should work.


      an attack on a US submarine or major warship would likely grant a strong response, nuclear is a last option

      • Kevis

        Wouldn’t count on much of a response with Obummer is the Whitehouse. Just like the red line in Syria, “Huh?”

  • Pat Patterson

    Yes. but there will be almost zero reaction time to their super-cavitating Shival torpedo

    • Melcyna

      There should be enough time against Shival because while super cavitating torpedoes are very fast comparatively, they are also INCREDIBLY noisy so assuming the system operator is not asleep it should be detectable long before it’s impact time even with it’s speed.

      Unless of course it was fired at short range.

      Shival wasn’t particularly intended as a kill weapon after all, but rather as a deterrent.

      • thehotfinger

        Also, as I understand it, Super cavitating torpedos are also not very maneuverable and can generally only be fired in a straight line. Since the torpedo under way does not make contact with the water, standard methods of control pose big challenges for the technology.

        • YEEHAWMAN

          i suppose it could “slow down” to make a course correction, then hit the throttle again

          • nikoliy

            Actually the none export version of Shkval can maneuver with thrust vectoring. Also at the speed of up to 250kn and with the range of 15km the target has a maximum of 2 min to respond. In a non WW3 situation that does give the target a chance to launch a countermeasure but I doubt you could do it more then once, if its a WW3 against Russia I imagine they would have nuclear warheads equipped… up to 200kg with a yield of around 30-35kt. That means anything within a 1/4 mile will be evaporated, 1-1.5miles of complete destruction, 1.5-5 miles were your still basically fucked and up 10 miles were you wish you were dead…

  • GaryLockhart

    “like the Navy’s Nimitz-class (CVN-71)(sic) nuclear aircraft carriers”

    CVN-68, Sam. The Theodore Roosevelt, CVN-71, is the fourth Nimitz class boat with the Nimitz, CVN-68, being the first Nimitz class boat.

  • Tony

    “SSTD – 25 years in the making” – embarrassing!

  • Keith Turk Jr.

    Shival torpedoes are short range, this is a fanastic system. The modern boats built today takes years to produce, and Id like them protected against piss ants that would make the first move with SSKs, FAC and incoming missiles from larger vessels and coastal artillery.

  • M&S

    Particularly against HVTs, torpedoes are fired in ripple and despite what the story says, most today now have wireguidance which means the sub doing the firing is using it’s own sonar to do the target squint and this is usually too effective to be fooled, especially if it’s combined with TVT with the weapon seeker.
    Unless this SSTD system has the capacity to execute multiple defeats across a wide compass bearing spread, it is not particularly useful.
    Shkval’s biggest problem is seeing through the noise and as such, it might be better to consider it to be an all-underwater boost system to bus a smaller torpedo into immediate proximity for subsequent conventional engagement.
    I myself worry about an SDV configured as a UUV and towing or boatdecking cluster-mines as six-shot tubes full of AShM and guided on by various optical and/or acoustic gap-filler sensors like long term sonobuoys.
    If you have an AShM with a range of 50nm and do half range overlaps both between clusters and between mine-lines you can cover a 500nm wide approach with double laned overlaps (i.e. at least three clusters in-range) with only 50 mines and perhaps 100 stationkeeping sensor buoys.
    That’s a minimum of 18 shots coming at any one screen ship in the battlegroup or say 2:1 for 3 point targets per cluster if you get really snarky and attack the Fleet Train instead.
    In particular, if you strip the CSG of her ABM escorts and then bus 10 DF-21D, half with grapeshot KKVs, half guided, overtop the island, it’s lights out regardless.
    Far more effective ‘wolfpack’ sea space coverage, half the price, of a typical 250 million Kilo or 460 million Type 212 SSK.

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  • Kevis

    Funny that I had googled on this after having a discussion with a Navy vet about submarine warfare. My comment about how if you heard the torpedo you were already screwed was why they didn’t have an anti-torpedo weapon, ie torpedo or missile to interdict the incoming torpedo. While they are fast compared to ships, they are slow compared to planes and missiles. It would only take a much smaller charge to damage the torpedo enough to stop it from being able to follow course, or destroy it.