A Better Anti-Sub Torpedo
September 13, 2013: The U.S. Navy recently ordered another 150 upgrade kits for its Mk 54 lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes (LWT). The new Mod 2 LWT upgrade consists of a more sensitive sonar (to seek out a submarine) and more powerful computer to interpret what the sonar hears. This upgrade takes advantage of the many advances in electronic and computer components over the two decades since the current Mk 54 tech was first developed. Many components for the Mk 54 came from the older Mk 50, and production of that model halted in the mid-1990s. Since then, old Mk 50s have been cannibalized for parts but that supply is running out. Rather than just build more of these older components, new and improved components were designed and, as with this Mod 2 kit, used to upgrade existing Mk 54s and equip new ones.
The Mk 54 is carried mainly by aircraft but also by many American and foreign surface ships and has replaced depth charges as the main weapon against submarines. The Mk 54 is particularly effective when used by aircraft equipped to seek out submarines. Patrol aircraft can carry up to eight lightweight torpedoes, while helicopters can carry up to three (but often just one). The Mk 54 is a 324mm (12.75 inch) weapon, weighing about 340 kg (750 pounds), and with a warhead containing 45 kg (100 pounds) of explosives. Its guidance system has been deliberately designed to work well in shallow coastal waters, where ships are believed most likely to encounter subs. Until 1991, when the Cold War ended and the Russian nuclear sub fleet disappeared, the emphasis was on fighting subs on the high seas.
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