The Navy hopes to restart its heavyweight torpedo program after a more than 15-year hiatus in production, but those plans could be hampered by a long-term continuing resolution.
Director of Undersea Warfare Rear Adm. Charles Richard left no doubt about his need for the program: “I have to go get that line started,” he said last week at the annual Naval Submarine League symposium.
Program Executive Office for Submarines Executive Director George Drakeley said at the same event that the submarine community is currently limited to the Mk 54 lightweight torpedo, the Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo and the Tomahawk missile.
“That’s really not that great, that’s not a good state of affairs,” he said.
“Now there’s a number of programs in the [research and development] area that I can’t discuss here, but we are looking at other weapons – but I say to the community we need to do a better job giving the warfighter more weapons here.”
And that limited selection of weapons is aging, he said. Discussing the Mk 48 Mod 7, the newest of the torpedoes, Drakeley said, “we refurbish these, we use them a lot, we fire them for training and then bring them back and refurb and reuse, but they’re getting old. And though when you look at the picture of it it looks like it’s kind of a modular weapon, we really have only been upgrading the forward part with the sonars and the electronics. So in the torpedo restart, we are going to be making this a truly modular design that you can pull out a section and plug in different payloads or different propulsion systems or different fuel supplies, and so as you’re developing the payloads you ought to be thinking about how you integrate with the modular Mk 48 some new capabilities and the like.”
But Richard said the ability to get that modular, plug-and-play torpedo off the ground could be hurt by the budget. The Navy is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which funds the government at last year’s levels until December. Congress appears to have reached a two-year budget deal to provide some relief from the Budget Control Act spending levels, but it is unclear if Congress will be able to pass a line-by-line spending bill by December or if the continuing resolution will be extended.