A Possible New Threat to Ports


Photo: “A computer-generated image of a purpose-built SeaHake mod4 ER torpedo launch vessel that is similar to the ones that Atlas Elektronik said were delivered to its undisclosed launch customer. The two Rmah-class vessels that were delivered to the UAE in 2014 have the same stern hatches and seemingly ordinary shipping containers on their decks. (Atlas Elektronik)”

Jane’s 360 reports that the UAE, “The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is probably operating innocuous-looking vessels that are armed with the world’s longest-range torpedo: a capability that would enable it to target Iranian Kilo-class submarines at their base.”

This is based on a report that German torpedo manufacturer Atlas Elektronik had exported two “floating platform[s] with torpedo-launching gear….to the UAE in 2014, along with underwater detection equipment.”

Atlas Elektronik is the manufacturer of the world’s longest ranged torpedo, the SeaHake Mod4 ER, with a range of 140 kM (75.6 nautical miles). The manufacturer claims the torpedo is “fitted with innovative navigation and communications technology, enabling extremely precise navigation and control of the torpedo over the entire distance.”

Now, I doubt we have any reason to fear an attack by the UAE Navy, but if they have the capability it cannot be long before others do as well. If a torpedo can be precisely guided to a specific geographic location, it would be fairly easy to target almost anything in a port. It could be done by small UAV, but even that is unnecessary. An agent in port could identify the location of targets by observation and reference to google maps.

During WWII the Soviets commonly attacked Axis held ports by launching unguided torpedoes into them. This could take the concept to a whole new level.

(It may be that the UAE is pioneering a new austere type of ASW vessel equipped only with a towed array for detection and targeting and torpedoes to engage the target. They do not need underwater detection equipment to attack subs in port.)

13 thoughts on “A Possible New Threat to Ports

  1. Yes and know. Wouldn’t limpet mines and SCUBA gear be easier? And then what about AIS? Other traffic? I think it is a bit of reach.

    Did you hear the Midrats podcast on the Cole? Outstanding.

    • This has advantages over divers, longer range, higher speed, and more explosive. I don’t understand your reference to AIS and other traffic. Missed the Cole podcast.

      We have seen a lot of evidence of new capabilities for unmanned systems. By comparison, to do an attack on a fixed geographic position is almost trivial.

      • So a ship nobody notices launches a UAV that is a torpedo or is carrying a torpedo, swims to the target, and boom? Nobody notices the mother ship on AIS or visually? As a one off terror attack? Or a new tactic? It is hardly new is it?

        or as you are an American,

        USV technology is improving all the time but that we still have to see a mass deployment of these weapons. Why? It isn’t trivial; torpedoes aren’t simple bits of kit when they are relatively dumb. I would say it is beyond terrorists without nation state support. And as soon as USV’s do become a threat then we are back to,

        and we should consider a USV defence to the offence USV.

        Lastly Gulf oil rich Arabs like toys. Just because they have procured this system doesn’t mean their is deep philosophical reasoning behind it. I bet the range of the torpedo was thing that grab their attention. I am surprised they aren’t buying a squadron of nuclear powered hydrofoils to carry and shoot them.

    • I bet there are lots of USV’s on CAD screens. It will happen. But we are decades out from it. And as I said it will be countered by defensive USVs.

  2. I would observe that torpedoes ARE ship killers, and ships follow shipping lanes which would make a non-descript ship like this a definite threat. Sink a big ship in a critical approach to a port and the port is a mission kill until a big ship could be salvaged. Big ships take a long time to salvage.

    Put this kind of ship off a port or location where friendly forces are going to and it will be a threat at least until it is identified.

  3. There is no such thing as a non descript ship these days. And if we are going to have a ship large enough to go “somewhere” and to shoot a torpedo then surely it would be even better to use mines? At least it would allow time for the non descript ship to slip away. And as I said up the page perhaps just using the non descript ship as a torpedo itself would be even better? I think it is a bit of reach for terrorists, episcopally without state backing.

    • This would make more sense than mines if the target were something like a carrier or an SSBN. State support of terrorists is entirely possible. Seems no one had expected the cruise missile attack on the Israeli corvette. Also you seem to have more faith in our surveillance and response capabilities than I do.

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