Home » News & Analysis » Navy Planning Torpedo Restart, Would Be Modular Design With Multiple Payloads


Navy Planning Torpedo Restart, Would Be Modular Design With Multiple Payloads

A MK-46 exercise torpedo is launched from the deck of Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) in 2007. US Navy Photo

A MK-46 exercise torpedo is launched from the deck of Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) in 2007. US Navy Photo

The Navy hopes to restart its heavyweight torpedo program after a more than 15-year hiatus in production, but those plans could be hampered by a long-term continuing resolution.

Director of Undersea Warfare Rear Adm. Charles Richard left no doubt about his need for the program: “I have to go get that line started,” he said last week at the annual Naval Submarine League symposium.

Program Executive Office for Submarines Executive Director George Drakeley said at the same event that the submarine community is currently limited to the Mk 54 lightweight torpedo, the Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo and the Tomahawk missile.

“That’s really not that great, that’s not a good state of affairs,” he said.
“Now there’s a number of programs in the [research and development] area that I can’t discuss here, but we are looking at other weapons – but I say to the community we need to do a better job giving the warfighter more weapons here.”

And that limited selection of weapons is aging, he said. Discussing the Mk 48 Mod 7, the newest of the torpedoes, Drakeley said, “we refurbish these, we use them a lot, we fire them for training and then bring them back and refurb and reuse, but they’re getting old. And though when you look at the picture of it it looks like it’s kind of a modular weapon, we really have only been upgrading the forward part with the sonars and the electronics. So in the torpedo restart, we are going to be making this a truly modular design that you can pull out a section and plug in different payloads or different propulsion systems or different fuel supplies, and so as you’re developing the payloads you ought to be thinking about how you integrate with the modular Mk 48 some new capabilities and the like.”

But Richard said the ability to get that modular, plug-and-play torpedo off the ground could be hurt by the budget. The Navy is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which funds the government at last year’s levels until December. Congress appears to have reached a two-year budget deal to provide some relief from the Budget Control Act spending levels, but it is unclear if Congress will be able to pass a line-by-line spending bill by December or if the continuing resolution will be extended.

“That’s a body blow in terms of my ability to get the resources and get them into the hands of those program managers so that we can go and make torpedoes. That’s next to impossible under a continuing resolution,” Richard said.
“So I’ve got to start making torpedoes.”

“And then what I have to do is I have to come up with an entirely new array of schwackage options that I can go give the fleet,” he said, echoing Drakeley’s call for additional payloads.
“That includes both undersea, that’s with the heavyweight torpedo capabilities, as well as an expanded missile portfolio. High on my expanded portfolio list is we have to figure out how to go get back in the anti-surface ship missile business. And then behind that, large and small diameter UUVs.”

Director of Naval Reactors Adm. Frank Caldwell said at the same event last week that the Navy is pursuing adding anti-ship missiles back to its sub fleet to bring it in line with the rest of the world’s fleets.

“For this audience, I’ll tell you we are considering that and we are taking some some steps to delivering that kind of capability to our submarine force and I can’t really say anymore than that,” he said.

  • sferrin

    God we’ve got some stupid politicians running the show. You can be sure China and Russia don’t have to deal with this kind of thing. And 15 years since we’ve built a torpedo? @#$%#$%#!!!!

    • NobodyInParticular

      I am in the torpedo business. It is how I currently make my living. While it is a very good thing to get the heavyweight program running again, it is not quite as dire a situation as painted here. It is not like the program has been totally idle. Incremental development has continued.

      And the lightweight torpedo program is extremely active right now. Consistently a CNO top priority.

      So we are not ignoring torpedoes by any means but it is definitely time to make a fresh push on the heavyweight side.

      • sferrin

        Sure. But there is a big difference between moding an existing design and bring one from a clean sheet to production. And we never did get the Mk50 working. The so-called Mk54 is pretty much an ancient Mk46 with the front end of a Mk50. And are we still working on supercavitating technology or has that been binned as well?

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  • RunningBear

    …with ‘bama spending $1 to $1 (defense to welfare), you should consider electing better politicians, rather than the “same old, same old”… It’s our fault for putting them in office. “…welfare the single biggest chunk of federal spending — topping Social Security and basic defense spending”. A work ethic is laughable to a sizeable portion of this society that is supported solely by “we” who toil each day. Cancel welfare, get a job, don’t work..don’t eat! God Bless Texas

    • Ctrot

      The $1 defense to $1 domestic is just the latest increase, not overall. Overall we spend $2-$3 on social programs for every $1 we spend on defense.

      • Secundius

        @ Ctrot.

        Last I heard, were TAKING from Tricare, VA., SSDI, Military-Support Benefits, SS, SSI, even First-Responders. So WHAT Social Programs are you talking about…

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  • Roger Roger

    Well that must have been written before the budget agreement which is good for 2 years. Of course it hasn’t passed the Senate yet and a couple of clown presidential candidates plan on obstructing it. 80 billion added to the defense budget. So finish that 3rd Zumwalt and get your torpedo’s.

    • Ctrot

      Yeah, how dare those clowns try to stop us from spending everything our great grandchildren can make in their lifetimes (since we’ve already spent all that our children and grandchildren can make).

      • sferrin

        *cough* Obamacare *cough*

        • Secundius

          @ sferrin.

          Before the “ACA” came along, I was $400K in debt!!!

    • disqus_zommBwspv9

      Scrape the zumwalt said and use the money for the Torpedos

    • Secundius

      @ Roger Roger.

      Last I heard the Lyndon Johnson was not being Scrapped After all, Construction is to far along to Scrap the Ship…

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  • Ctrot

    “I have to come up with an entirely new array of schwackage options that I can go give the fleet”

    “schwackage”, I love it!

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  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Over 15 years of no development? I wonder who decided that. You think with the previous CNO being a submariner that development would have been restarted sooner

    • vetww2

      One year= EXPEDITE
      Two years=upgrade
      Three years=Redevelop
      Four years and up= PORK

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  • Secundius

    What do you MEAN “Restart”? This should be a ONGOING “Process”, that NEVER “Shut’s Off”!

  • Rob C;.

    Man, I hope their able pull through their needs. I can’t believe they can’t fire anti-ship missiles never mind try develop a replacement torpedoes.