27 December 2016
The Pentagon is developing an improved version of the venerable Mark 48 heavyweight homing torpedo. A standard of U.S. Navy submarines since the 1970s, the torpedo is being updated to deal with new threats.
The Mark 48 torpedo was originally fielded in the early 1970s as a “one torpedo sinks all” replacement for the older Mark 37. Unlike the Mark 37, which was only useful against other submarines, the Mark 48 could attack both surface ships and submarines.
The Mark 48 weighs 3,695 pounds, is nineteen feet long and has a diameter of 533 millimeters. It has a 650 pound PBXN-103 high explosive warhead, an effective range of 35,000 yards, and an estimated maximum depth of 2,500 feet. It has both active and passive guidance systems capable of locking onto targets at 4,000 yards, and can also use wire guidance. The U.S. Navy has 1,046 of the torpedoes fleetwide.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin is upgrading existing Mark 48s to a new standard. A new, upgraded torpedo will run quieter, have an improved propulsion system, be more resistant to electronic countermeasures, and have an all-new guidance control system known as Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS. The new system should allow for locking onto enemy vessels at even longer ranges.
In addition to upgrading older torpedoes, Lockheed will deliver 250 more brand new Mark 48s to the U.S. Navy.