The 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 Military.com.
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.