Northrop Grumman Corporation
Falls Church, VA
703-280-2900
www.northropgrumman.com

The U.S. Navy recently awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a $9.6 million contract, with options up to $40.5 million, to produce the Transducer Array/Nose Shell Assembly of the MK 48 heavyweight torpedo. The MK 48 is the primary offensive weapon deployed from all U.S. Navy submarines.

The initial contract covers engineering and production of 45 MK 48 torpedo Transducer Array/Nose Shell Assemblies. Three additional options allow for up to 45 units apiece, for a total of up to 180 systems over five years. The contract also includes orders for spare parts and engineering support services. The Transducer Array is the main sensor used to acoustically detect, locate, and guide the torpedo to its intended target.

Work on the contract will be performed at Northrop Grumman’s Annapolis, Maryland facility, Ultra Electronics Ocean Systems’ Braintree, Massachusetts facility, and at additional supplier locations. Completed assemblies will be delivered to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Keyport, Washington, for installation into complete MK 48 torpedoes.

Northrop Grumman’s experience with torpedo production dates back to World War II with the development and manufacturing of the MK 18 for the U.S. Submarine Force. Northrop Grumman has since produced thousands of torpedoes including more than 3,000 MK 48 torpedoes and nearly 500 MK 50 lightweight torpedoes. Northrop Grumman is currently producing the MK 54 Acoustic Nose Array for the U.S. Navy.

The Mk-48, which has been operational with the US Navy since 1972, is designed to combat fast, deep-diving nuclear submarines and high-performance surface ships. It is carried by all Navy submarines. The improved version, Mk-48 ADCAP (Advanced Capability), which became operational in 1988 and was approved for full production in 1989, is carried by attack submarines and the OHIO class ballistic missile submarines. The Mk-48 replaced both the Mk-37 and Mk-14 torpedoes.

Mk-48 and Mk-48 ADCAP torpedoes can operate with or without wire guidance and use active and/or passive homing. When launched they execute programmed target search, acquisition and attack procedures. Both can conduct multiple reattacks if they miss the target. A highly capable weapon, the Mk-48 can be used against surface ships or submarines, and has been test fired under the Arctic ice pack and in other arduous conditions. The ADCAP version, in comparison with earlier Mk-48 torpedoes, has improved target acquisition range, reduced vulnerability to enemy countermeasures, reduced shipboard constraints such as warmup and reactivation time, and enhanced effectiveness against surface ships.

The Mk-48 is propelled by a piston engine with twin, contrarotating propellers in a pump jet or shrouded configuration. The engine uses a liquid monopropellant fuel, and the torpedo has a conventional, high-explosive warhead. The Mk-48 has a sophisticated guidance system permitting a variety of attack options. As the torpedo leaves the submarine’s launch tube a thin wire spins out, electronically linking the submarine and torpedo. This enables an operator in the submarine, with access to the submarine’s sensitive sonar systems, initially to guide the torpedo toward the target. This helps the torpedo avoid decoys and jamming devices that might be deployed by the target. The wire is severed and the torpedo’s high-powered active/passive sonar guides the torpedo during the final attack.

The Mk-48 Mod. 5 ADCAP torpedo is an improvement to the Mk-48 submarine launched torpedo. It is a heavyweight acoustic homing torpedo with sophisticated sonar and a fuzed warhead. The ADCAP enhancement includes all digital guidance and control systems, digital fuzing systems, and propulsion improvements which add speed, depth, and range capability.

In addition to its work on the MK 54 and MK 48 torpedoes, Northrop Grumman operates one of the world’s largest and most advanced research centers on future undersea warfare technology. Current projects include research on multiple aspects of the very lightweight torpedo for missions in torpedo defense and offensive submarine warfare, development of automated torpedo array assembly and test, and advanced torpedo acoustic element and array design concepts for increased performance, reliability and lethality.

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Aerospace & Defense Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2017 issue of Aerospace & Defense Technology Magazine.

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