Coming Soon To An Ocean Near You...
There's a very interesting article in the new issue of Sea Power magazine about the Navy's plan to develop an "anti-torpedo torpedo". The article is chock-full of some really good information. Excerpts:
"A submarine-launched torpedo, typically 21 inches in diameter, is difficult to counter and evade. It travels at relatively high speeds (more than 40 knots) — providing very little reaction time — and is difficult for a surface ship to spot and track. No existing weapons, such as naval gun systems, are effective against torpedoes without a lucky hit.
"Surface ships can deploy the Nixie, an acoustic jammer towed behind the ship, to confuse an incoming torpedo. And submarines can eject countermeasures such as noisemakers to decoy incoming homing torpedoes away from their target.
"The Navy now is procuring similar expendable countermeasures that can be launched from a surface ship.
"The ATT is 6.75 inches in diameter, 105 inches long, weighs approximately 200 pounds and is powered by a stored chemical-energy propulsion system — which uses steam created by chemical reaction — similar to that used in the Navy’s Mk50 lightweight torpedo. It is designed to operate in the noisy, turbulent wakes of ships, where it could intercept wake-homing torpedoes.
"The ATT could be adapted to be launched from the common surface-vessel torpedo tube launcher — currently used to launch larger antisubmarine torpedoes — and from the standard Rolling Airframe Missile launcher installed on many surface combatants."
Later on, the article mentions that they started a project like this back in the 80's, but it didn't work because we didn't have the computer processing power. Now we do:
"The Navy made abortive efforts to develop ATTs during the naval build-up of the early 1980s. One example, a version of the service’s standard Mk46 lightweight, 12.75-inch-diameter antisubmarine torpedo, designed for launch from aircraft and surface ships, was modified as an ATT but failed its operational evaluation — its final exam — in 1994 and was canceled.
"What makes an ATT achievable now are advances in the “miniaturization of electronics and the subsequent increases in microprocessor computational capability,” said Bock. In countering an incoming torpedo, “the ATT must be able to very rapidly process all of the acoustic information availability and make timely maneuvers in order to intercept the incoming threat.”
If the ATT ends up working (they're going to do some prototype testing later this year, with possible deployment in 2012, according to the article) it'll be a huge advance in submarine warfare. This will be one tool we'll really need to make sure the Chinese don't get ahold of.