The Navy’s experimental Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo launches from the fantail of USS George HW Bush in May. US Navy Photo
In an age where missiles can shoot down ICBMs, the only surprise is that this has not happened sooner.
The US Naval Institute News is reporting that the Navy is developing a small torpedo to intercept Russian/Soviet designed torpedoes that are immune to normal acoustic torpedo countermeasures, because they follow the target’s wake rather than passively homing on the ship’s noise. I would expect it to work against other types of torpedoes as well.
The existence of wake homing torpedoes has been known for decades. Not mentioned in the article, but the Germans were working on these in WWII and the British unsuccessfully attempted to make a wake homer before the first World War.
Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of this hard kill system is expected in 2019 with fleet wide adoption by 2035. What are the implications for the Coast Guard, other than perhaps having the countermeasure on our largest ships?
This anti-torpedo torpedo (ATT) might be adapted to become the “ship stopper” I believe the Coast Guard needs to ensure the ability to stop determined terrorists in control of a medium to large ship. With its relatively small charge it might even be usable in more typical law enforcement situations. The Navy might also find it useful if they are engaged in a blockade operation. I wonder if it might also be useful against swarming small boats.
The ATT is only 6.75 inches in diameter, only slightly more than half the diameter of existing light weight ASW torpedoes. It probably weighs on the order of 100 pounds and the warhead is almost certainly less than 25 pounds, but it would likely suffice to destroy propellers and possibly the rudder of even a large vessel. The fact that it would likely stop a vessel without sinking it, might be seen as an advantage. It is also less likely to create collateral damage, and it would be less dangerous to own ship than the carriage of larger torpedoes. It would have a very small footprint and could be carried on even the smallest cutters.
Slide from a Naval Sea Systems Command presentation on the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense system. NAVSEA Image
A little over a year ago, I published a post entitled “What Does It Take to Sink a Ship.” It has proven perhaps my most widely read post. The recent sinking of the Japanese fishing vessel Ryou-Un Maru beautifully illustrates the point that ships can be very hard to sink by gun fire.
Title: GULF OF ALASKA – The Japanese fishing vessel, Ryou-Un Maru
Summary: GULF OF ALASKA – The Japanese fishing vessel, Ryou-Un Maru, shows significant signs of damage after the Coast Guard Cutter Anancapa fired explosive ammunition into it 180 miles west of the Southeast Alaskan coast April 5, 2012.
Reportedly the USCGC Anacapa began the operation at 13:00 and the Ryou-Un Maru sank at 18:15. It appears that the F/V may have been hit 100 times by explosive 25mm projectiles. With no crew aboard to do damage control and probably with no real measures taken to ensure water tight doors were closed, it stayed afloat for over five hours and ultimately the Anacapa resorted to pumping water into the vessel to sink it.
Title: 120405-G-RS249-005-USCG responds to Japanese vessel in Gulf of Alaska
Summary: GULF OF ALASKA – The Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa crew douses the adrift Japanese vessel with water after a gunnery exercise 180 miles west of the Southeast Alaskan coast April 5, 2012. The crew was successful and sank the vessel at 6:15 p.m. in 6,000 feet
This was a very small ship, probably less than 500 tons, the implications for our ability to stop a medium to large vessel with a determined crew on board, bent on using the vessel for a terrorist act in an American port should be obvious. With even crude and unsophisticated measures to protect vital machinery and control functions, a ship can resist a great deal of gunfire and continue to its objective.
Late Addition–Video of the sinking added 25 Dec. 2012
This is the second of two parts. The first part focusing on what I believe are the current shortfalls in the US Navy force structure is here.
Since part one, additional cuts to the Navy’s plans have been announce. Attack submarines which have an important ASW role are now expected to decline from a current 55 to 40 in 2030 and all SSGNs will be removed from service. Additionally the Navy will prematurely retire seven cruisers and two amphibious warfare ships. The planned five year building program is going from 57 ships to 41.
Now we will look more closely at what Coast Guard Cutters may be called upon to do in future conflicts, what changes to our existing force might be prudent, and desirable characteristics for future cutters. Continue reading →
According to Reuters, when the new Chief of Naval Operations addressed the Surface Navy Association on January 10, he offered some clues as to how he thought the Navy might address the changing environment and stated that a review of the Navy’s force structure is expected this spring.
There are a few areas where CG and Navy interests might intersect.
“The four-star admiral mapped out some areas of continued investment, including unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles…”
The CG could benefit, if Navy systems don’t become so sophisticated they are priced out of reach. Hopefully the Navy will apply their Broad Area Maritime Surveillance System (BAMS)(Navy illustration left) to areas of interest to the Coast Guard and the CG will be able to use it to help maintain maritime domain awareness.
“Greenert, who took over as the Navy’s top uniformed officer in September, told a packed audience that he made some changes to the Navy’s budget plan after visiting the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important shipping lane, which Iran last month threatened to shut off if new U.S. and EU sanctions over its nuclear program halted Iranian oil exports.
“He said funds were added for more mine warfare equipment, counter-swarm, and anti-submarine warfare.”
This could refer to mission modules for the Littoral Combat Ship program, but increased emphasis on ASW could mean another ship type may be needed. There could be an opportunity to share a hull with the OPC.
“Other priorities for the Navy in coming years included work on a next-generation destroyer to replace the Arleigh-Burke DDG-51 destroyers, a ship that he said would need a common hull and modular systems.”
So modular systems are being extended beyond the LCS program. This may be a way for cutters to have a meaningful war time role without the burden of maintaining weapon system on board in peacetime.
He also underscored the Navy’s interest in development of an anti-torpedo torpedo and new electronic warfare capabilities.
A couple of blogs allow us to see new equipment and concepts (mostly in model form) being shown at the EURONAVAL 2010 Exhibition. One of my regular reads, http://combatfleetoftheworld.blogspot.com/, has a four part series of photos. Clicking on the image gives you a better view and the blogger, Mike Columbaro (he’s French, but the blog is in English), was good enough to label the photos.
If you are interested, I would suggest you start by going directly to the Combat Fleet blog first and then moving on to the militaryphotos site. Because over time the combatfleetoftheworld posts will get buried by newer posts, I’ll provide links for each of them separately, here, here, here, and here.