Navy Deploying New Anti-Torpedo Technology

Anti-TorpedoThe Navy is gearing up for deployment and a new round of tests of its Surface Ship Torpedo Defense System — a high tech system designed to protect aircraft carriers by locating, tracking and intercepting incoming torpedoes, Navy leaders said Oct. 24 at the Naval Submarine League, Falls Church, Va.

The upcoming tests, slated to take place on the USS George H.W. Bush, are designed as a follow on to initial end-to-end testing of an early prototype model aboard the Bush this past May. The Navy plans to equip all aircraft carriers with SSTD by 2035.

The SSTD system, which consists of a sensor, processor and small interceptor missile, is a first-of-its-kind “hard kill” countermeasure for ships and carriers designed to defeat torpedoes, said Rear Adm. Dave Johnson, Program Executive Officer, Submarines.

The SSTD is slated for additional testing on board the USS Bush next month in what’s called  a Quick Reaction Assessment, Johnson said. The SSTD will be an Engineering Development Model of the technology, meaning it will be further tweaked and refined before deploying aboard the USS Bush in the near future.

Ships already have a layered system of defenses which includes sensors, radar and several interceptor technologies designed to intercept large, medium and small scale threats from a variety of ranges. For example, most aircraft carriers are currently configured with Sea Sparrow interceptor missiles designed to destroy incoming air and surface threats and the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. CIWS is a rapid-fire gun designed as an area weapon intended to protect ships from surface threats closer to the boat’s edge, such as fast-attack boats.

Torpedo defense for surface ships, however, involves another portion of the threat envelope and is a different question. SSTD is being rapidly developed to address this, Navy officials explained.

The system consists of a Torpedo Warning System Receive Array launched from the winch at the end of the ship, essentially a towed sensor or receiver engineered to detect the presence of incoming torpedo fire. The Receive Array sends information to a processor which then computes key information and sends data to interceptor projectiles — or Countermeasures Anti-Torpedos, or CAT — attached to the side of the ship.

The towed array picks up the acoustic noise.  The processors filter it out and inform the crew. The crew then makes the decision about whether to fire a CAT, a Navy official told

The CATs are mounted on the carriers’ sponson, projections from the side of the ship designed for protection, stability or the mounting of armaments.

The individual technological pieces of the SSTD system are engineered to work together to locate and destroy incoming torpedos in a matter of seconds or less.  Tactical display screens on the bridge of the ship are designed to inform commanders about the system’s operations.

After being tested on some smaller ships such as destroyers, the SSTD was approved for use on aircraft carriers in 2011 by Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert, according to the Navy.

The SSTD effort is described by Navy officials as a rapid prototyping endeavor designed to fast-track development of the technology. In fact, the Torpedo Warning System recently won a 2013 DoD “Myth-Busters” award for successful acquisition practices such as delivering the TWS to the USS Bush on an accelerated schedule. The TWS is made by 3 Phoenix.

The Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo is being developed by the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • conradswims

    Who’s torpedos?

    • David

      “Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

      It is simple and serves a real word important purpose.

      • d. kellogg

        Problem is, there are a lot of good ideas out there that seem to offer a nice chunk of capability.
        Issue is, which can/will we pay for, and which will we do without?

        The decision making process of our military procurement system is as FUBAR as government bureaucracy gets, as 9 out of 10 times it ISN’T the personnel at the front lines who will most appreciate the extra capabilities that are the folks making the decisions on what to buy, and what we must do without.

        Still, “Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it”
        is a better rationale than the disgraceful Rumsfeldian “you go to war with what you have, not with what you want.”

        • Ziv

          d, how was Rumsfeld’s observation anything but logical? He was criticized for not having enough troops in Iraq and then he was criticized for not bringing enough armor for the HMMV’s. He was functioning within limits. No military gets everything it wants, and no commander can foresee every need that his army will have.

          • d. kellogg

            the Rumsfeld fail was the severe underestimation of the adversary(ies) resourcefulness at resisting us.
            He (and whomever’s intel he chose to consider and whose to ignore) resulted in sending personnel into an environment far too ill-equipped for what they were going to contend with.
            What’s the point of even having an intel community if they arer/were so inept at predicting an adversary’s logical recourse,
            or worse,
            what’s the point of a SecDef who refuses to listen to the right people?
            No one is ever going to miss the days of Rumsfeld’s leadership, no more than they will miss him and the hanfull of policymakers who orchestrated that mess, regardless of the outcome and whose interests it was best in (stil debatable).

            This is the same issue we have with procurement: decision makers who refuse to look at what kind of warfare we’ve fought the last quarter century, and instead want to focus on the least likely scenarios of needing big-ticket item to fight near-peers 9China, Russia), an exchange none of us really want, except for those hardline old school warriors who still want a big war.

          • d. kellogg

            …that 9 should be a “( ” parenthesi

          • blight_

            We identified the need for better vehicles than the Humvee in the ’90s. The military police had the up-armored Humvees and the ASV; but it was never anticipated that we would fight out of Humvees in cities (even after Mogadishu, which in retrospect should strike Americans as strange).

            Rumsfeld inherited a military victim to budget cuts under Bush Senior and Clinton. He had 2000 and 2001 to bring the military back into shape before Enduring Freedom, and then a few more years to bring the conventional forces up to shape for Iraqi Freedom. But in the 2000’s, who was seriously thinking about COIN? Chances are it was groupthink either in the Rumsfeld-doctrine-few-good-special-ops-and-B52s or legacy cold war dinosaurs, and no COIN in between.

      • wtpworrier

        Whats the point of making anything you don’t need? We have stock piles of gas we never needed, and never used. Now we are having trouble getting rid of this stuff, or can’t get rid of it because we don’t know how….It’s best to build what we need, but make sure you can destroy it, if we never use it.

        • John S

          That is not a reasonable comparison/analogy, IMHO. We are talking here about carrier/fleet protection. Spending a few million dollars to protect multi-billion dollar national assets from enemy torpedoes seems, to me anyway, a very worthwhile endeavor and investment. Yes, every CVBG is also protected by fast attack submarine(s). However, just like Phalanx/CIWS system protects against close-range surface and air threats that have managed to penetrate longer-range defensive screens, a similar system makes sense for underwater threats. Furthermore, SSNs are mean’t to protect the CVBG from enemy subs, not torpedoes that have already been fired. I believe the USN is also legitimately worried about long-range / stand-off cruise missiles that, upon closing distance, terminally deploy a torpedo, in order to attack a CVN from below the surface.

    • C-Low

      Norks, Iran, Venezuela, China, Russia

      To just name a few possible contenders that have both diesel subs and torpedoes. Many others have torpedoes but not the subs. Air launched or fast boat strikes I don’t really think would have a chance in a real world scenario, they would be detected and destroyed from the air well before they got anywhere near a carrier battle group.

      And the scale of war continues to shift and roll back and forth from defense/offense advantage.

      This is a needed advance that I imagine if things get hot many a sailor will sleep all the easier knowing this is on their ship.

      • anon e. muss

        Ahh.. former (2000’s) submariner here. Qualified passive broadband, and under-instruction narrowband and towed-array. Ever tried to track a nuclear boat? It’s hard, but possible. They’re like ghosts, even the ones without natural circulation reactors. And own-ship’s noise (reactor steam, mostly) is reasonably loud, from the listener’s perspective. Dolphins find you and swarm you for a bit.. blanking everything out. Sea state and own-ship’s speed make a big difference. If a diesel boat ever sneaks up on you, and it’s got juice left… well, good luck with that.

        So, yes, C-Low… a fast boat could get within range of a carrier. Like everyone else, I’d like to think we’d detect them. Active sonar would help those chances, a lot.

    • blight_

      It’s awfully reductive logic. We have CIWS and RAM to defend against hypothetical missiles, and from a comprehensive defense standpoint, active defense against torpedoes should also be on the list. I suppose if it’s cheap and can be pushed as ubiquitously as CIWS and RAM it will have a place in the Navy. However, the R&D is poorly timed to our fiscal environment.

      • d. kellogg

        Unlike the actual subs themselves as anon mentioned, the torpedo is not hard to track: they are not generally slow-moving and quiet during their terminal attack, and just as with airborne weapons, a track can be established and now we have a hit-to-kill weapon to respond in kind.

        My bigger interest is, obviously there is a considerable leap in “torpedo-tronics”, all the innards that make the guidance, control, and propulsion of these anti-torpedoes, function. And for the comparably miniscule size when we look at even the stadard-format 12.75inch ASW type torpedoes,
        much as with today’sother PGMs available to aircraft, how much more formidable could this new generation of “torpedo-tronics” create even more lethal variants of our 12.75inch and 21inch torpedoes?
        Smaller electronics volume compared to earlier generations means we could create longer-ranged weapond and/or with larger warheads… Nice.

        The other consideration could even be, a new class and caliber of lightweight ASW torpedo specifically built for shallower operations.

  • andy

    I thought we have this technologies long time ago…

    • blight_

      Detection yes. Countering, perhaps in the form of spoofing and jamming, but nothing in terms of defeating a torpedo directly. You could try torpedo nets, but they impose drag penalties and have a tendency to break.

      • black

        I think torpedo nets protection more or less died when torpedo’s started detonating under the boat instead of trying to go through it.

        • blight_

          True. Bulges, torpedo belts and nets won’t stop a torpedo that detonates under the keel…I wonder what the standoff distance required between the torpedo and the ship is. I suppose a net could be made “deeper”, but would simply impose stupendous drag. Might not make sense on a DDG, but perhaps on a nuclear-powered CVN…?

  • Tony

    I like the idea, just wondering how much is this gonna cost?

    • l_veda

      depending on the contractor; eg, if LM consider it your “future”.

      • ffjbentson

        I am sure less then the cost of an Aircraft Carrier replacement

  • @GreensboroVet

    The motivation behind this technology? Chinese sub surfacing behind Kitty Hawk and all those quiet electric/diesel subs.

    • Rage

      Right, you know the USN tried fielding a Mk46 mod for this role in 1992, and the Royal Navy had an anti torpedo rocket thrown weapon in the 1950s called Ruler, as well as both fleets doing work in that era on homing weapons. The idea of an anti torpedo torpedo is very old and not prompted by anything more specific then the incredible threat homing torpedoes present to any warship. It just took until now for solid state sonar technology to become sensitive enough to make it praticable in service. Earlier test systems had such high false alarm rates that they would have rapidly run out of anti torpedo weapons shooting at nothing. Collecting and processing underwater sound information has never been so straightforward, as say, radar signal processing is.

      • d. kellogg

        Depending how credible sources are, more than one naval technology websites suggest that some of today’s 12.75inch ASW torpedoes like the MU90 IMPACT can perform as anti-torpedoes should the need arise.
        These Penn State developed weapons are considerably smaller, and the launch apparatus would therefore take up less volume than the familiar triple tube installations we see in numerous vessels deploying the 12.75inch weapons.

        What could be an interesting future derivative could be a triple-cluster installed in a VLA (Vertical Launch AsRoc) that could provide an impressive countermeasure to small SSKs.

  • Tad

    “Torpedo defense for surface ships, however, involves another portion of the threat envelope and is a different question. SSTD is being rapidly developed to address this, Navy officials explained.”

    Huh, rapidly. Torpedoes must be an emerging threat that never existed before.

    • Rage

      More precisely providing propaganda to the press to protect the program is a requirement that didn’t exist earlier. People put why too much stock into little sound bite comments like this.

  • Big-Dean

    It’s about time, for the last 15 years the Navy seems to have forgotten about ASW.
    When I was in, that ALL we talked about was ASW. and that’s all we did, of course I was on a ASW frigate-but we don’t have any of those anymore.

  • Bobob

    That definition of sponson comes directly from Wikipedia. Nice journalism.

  • orly?

    I recommend a better acronym.

    SSTDs: only sailors have them lol.

  • yogiberra111

    That’s terrific if it works. I hadn’t heard about this before. It could render obsolete a big portion of the submarine spending by potential adversaries. That’s critical since so much of the game is economic.

    • Rage

      Most weapons technology counters itself. Enemy submarines could counter this in many ways, such as by firing larger numbers of smaller, quieter, torpedoes. They’d have to accept smaller warhead but that isn’t so important if each one blows a screw or rudder off a carrier. Other things are possible too, this just encourages chance, not a lot has changed with submarine torpedoes in decades. They get better sure, but nothing radical except the supercativating Russian job which has fairly short range.

      For its part the USN has already studied offensive options for this small anti torpedo itself, under the name Compact Rapid Attack Weapon. One proposal including making it air droppable as an ASW weapon for MQ-8B Firescout, thus making Firescout into a modernized version of the old DASH drone. Another concept that got a few million bucks of study was to put a dozen or so of them on a self propelled mine called Sea Predator as a replacement for CAPTOR that could also engage swarms of small boats, packs of North Korean or Iranian midget submarines, and similar non standard threats. All using one recoverable and reusable mine, rather then a whole field of expensive expendable ones.

  • d. kellogg

    These anti-torpedoes have been in development at Penn State for several years, under various monikers as the program(s) evolved.

    Notice the dimensions mentioned in the article link below:
    “As currently configured, the 200-pound ATT is 6.75 inches in diameter, 105 inches long…”

    Seems perfect armament for the LCS to be used in shallower waters where the smaller SSKs can prowl, waters not deep enough for the safe passage of the bigger nuke SSNs to do the hunting.

    Then again, it’s been a long debate about just how deep constitutes “littoral” shallows where the LCS will operate and perform ASW and MCM but larger vessels needing ~deeper~ waters can’t……

  • hibeam

    I have an idea. Why don’t we build giant million ton blimps. Then we can figure out how to defend against the swarms of missiles they will attract.

  • hibeam

    Carriers cannot be protected against real adversaries like China. Don’t waste your money. Carriers are only useful for slapping backwater buffoons like Iran around.

    • pzkwmkv

      What exactly would the Chinese employ against a carrier battle group?

      • hibeam

        Ballistic carrier killer warheads with terminal evasive maneuvering. I would rather be shooting such weapons at a big target than be in a big target trying to swat them down. Smart torpedoes of course. Suicide stealth drones coming out at night. Too many eggs in one basket in the age of smart weapons.

        • Big-Dean

          nice try hibeam, but
          any missile coming at a carrier battle group in a “ballistic” path would assumed to be nuclear, we would respond accordingly by sending a few “ballistic” nuclear missiles their way- and the KNOW this well!

        • Curt

          So let’s see,
          Ballistic missiles require targeting and are enageable inside and outside the atmosphere.
          Torpedoes require launch platforms and can be countered by decoys as well as hardkill means being addressed by SSTD.
          Suicide stealth drones. OK, still require targeting and a CVN can move around. And I guess IR detection doesn’t work at night.
          You forgot hacking attacks, EMP attack, regiments of backfires, submarine launched missiles, sharks with lasers on their heads, etc.

          • Murf

            That’s ill tempered man-eating sharks with lasers on their heads.

  • lynxlead

    The first time one of the big boys gets sunk we will withdraw from the fight due to public emotions.

    • Vegas04

      The first time one of the big boys gets attacked, public reaction would be an overwhelming wish of death for the ones who fired that missile. You would see B-2s rumbling from Whiteman AFB, SSNs leaving submarine bases in Washington state, you would see Ohios diving just a bit deeper and getting a bit more quiet… If you think Pearl Harbor was a defining moment to enter WW2, i bet you a million that sinking a supercarrier would result in an all out attack like has never been seen before. And all of our adversaries know that, and that’s why nobody will attack a carrier, unless they are ready for a WW3.

  • Lance

    Still don’t think it do well against Nuclear tipped torpedo’s. KABOOM!

    • blight_

      I suppose a nuclear torpedo close enough to target could fuze to detonate prematurely. Depending on the depth of the torpedo and the yield of the warhead, the shock-wave produced would be…interesting.

      • Curt

        Still have to get close enough to hurt the ship with the blast (minimal radiation and heat in an underwater blast) and a counter-torpedo would have a some chance of causing the warhead to malfunction.

  • guest

    China is building a blue water Navy with the ability to fight our capitol ships. Could be in waters near Hawaii. Could be in waters around Alaska. Could be in waters in the WestPac. Given the pace of Chinese ship building the US Navy will face a peer competitor within 10-15 years. Given procurement cycles as long as they are, the US Navy faces some urgency in correctly identifying the Chinese threat.

    • B-g-Dean

      you pretty much got that right guest

    • Riceball

      What’s a capitol ship? Is it anything like a capital ship?

      • blight_

        Floating Washington DC, with laser beams.

    • Murf

      There is a lot “could be’ coming off this pst

  • oblatt1

    I guess if you don’t do ASW anymore you have to expect a lot of incoming torpedoes.

  • GunnyHighway

    it is also available on Submarines!

  • gord

    hope it can stop those russian underwater missle torpedoes, does china or iran have these weapons i wonder?

  • Tim

    Forget the technology, just put, “Baby Bush”, on deck. Just one look at him and the enemy will, literally run out of the water, in fear………………………lol

  • reality

    2035? Can’t have it a little sooner, pretty please? Misprint I hope…

  • Bob Musselman

    We’re testing now, deploying by 2035… that’s 22 years from now. And they call this a “fast-track development” program. Doesn’t sound like it.

  • Richard Smith

    As a former member of the Silent Service I know there are not enough countermeasures that can defeat multiple torpedoes targeting any large ship. I hope we have enough Black projects in production. Some one wise one said “For every measure there is a countermeasure.” We need alot more subs and this is not negotiable when it come to a budget.

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