US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released
- The US Navy has shed light on a previously secret project to protect aircraft carriers from the grave and widespread threat of torpedoes, and it’s been a massive failure.
- The Navy abandoned a program to detect and kill incoming torpedos in the water after it failed to make progress in testing, leaving its most powerful ships highly vulnerable.
- The anti-torpedo systems in place will now be removed at a time when US carriers are losing simulated battles to even older, diesel-powered electric submarines, and China’s military is openly discussing sinking carriers to defeat the US.
- The US spent $760 million on the system to save US ships, and now it looks like even old North Korean subs could have a chance at a kill shot on the US’s carrier fleet.
The US Navy has shed light on a previously highly classified project meant to protect aircraft carriers from the grave and widespread threat of torpedos, and it’s been a massive failure.
Virtually every navy the US might find itself at war against can field torpedos, or underwater self-propelled bombs that have been sinking warships for more than 100 years.
US Navy aircraft carriers represent technological marvels as they’re floating airports driven by nuclear reactions, but after years of secretive tests, the US has given up on a program to meet the threat.
The US Navy has cancelled its Anti-Torpedo Torpedo Defensive System project and will remove the systems from five aircraft carriers that actually have them installed, the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation revealed in a report on Tuesday.
"In September 2018, the Navy suspended its efforts to develop the [surface ship torpedo defense] system. The Navy plans to restore all carriers to their normal configurations during maintenance availabilities" over the next four years, the report reads.
Michael D. Cole/US Navy
Essentially, the report says over five years, the program made some process in finding and knocking down incoming torpedos, but not enough. Data on the reliability of the systems remains either too thin or completely nonexistent.
This leaves the US Navy’s surface ships with almost no defense against a submarine’s primary anti-surface weapon at a time when the service warns that Russia and China’s submarine fleet have rapidly grown to pose a major threat to US ships.
The US ignored the threat of torpedos, and now anyone with half a navy has a shot
Vitaly V. Kuzmin via Wikimedia Commons
At the end of the Cold War, the US turned away from anti-submarine warfare towards a fight against surface ships. But now, Russia, China, and Iran reportedly have super-cavitating torpedoes, or torpedos that form a bubble of air around themselves as they jet through the water at hundreds of miles an hour.
The new class of speedy torpedos can’t be guided, but can fire straight towards US Navy carriers that have little chance of detecting them.
Torpedoes don’t collide directly into a ship, but rather use an explosion to create an air bubble under the ship and potentially bend or break the bow, sinking the ship.
Other Russian torpedos have a range of 12 miles and can zig zag to beat countermeasures when closing in on a ship.
In a combat exercise off the coast of Florida in 2015, a small French nuclear submarine, the Saphir, snuck through multiple rings of carrier strike group defenses and scored a simulated kill on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and half of its escort ships, Reuters reported. Other US naval exercise have seen even old-fashioned diesel-electric submarines sinking carriers.
Source: Business Insider