What the Ministry of Defence call the world’s ‘most advanced torpedo’ is “on the cusp of entering service” after extensive trials in Scotland, say the Royal Navy.

The upgraded Spearfish was “fired” repeatedly at frigate HMS Sutherland as scientists, engineers and sailors studied its performance.

According to a news release:

“Over four days on special ranges near the Kyle of Lochalsh, the improved weapon was put through its paces, testing both software and hardware enhancements – while the Plymouth-based frigate did its utmost to fend off the torpedo’s attacks. Spearfish has been the Silent Service’s weapon of choice since the early 1990s, though it has never been fired in anger.

The warhead is a good six times more powerful than that carried by the smaller Sting Ray torpedo, fired by ships like Sutherland or launched from Merlin and Wildcat helicopters. It can break the back of frigates, destroyers and similar-sized warships, and take out any underwater threats.”

The Royal Navy is spending £270m in upgrading Spearfish, fitting a new warhead, new, safer fuel system, an enhanced electronic ‘brain’ and a new fibre-optic guidance link with its parent submarine to improve its accuracy and lethality.

A final trial of Spearfish will take place at BUTEC later in 2020 before the weapon is declared operational and begins being delivered to the submarine fleet.

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Robert Blay

Awesome bit of kit. Often describe more like an under water cruise missile, then a traditional torpedo. Astute class, with these bad boys on-board, along with TLAM, in the hands of one of our superbly trained Perisher course qualified captains, are a genuinely feared opponent. 🇬🇧

Paul

Now I always thought the greatest threat to a submarine is the launch transient from its own torpedos. Would it not have been better to invest in a quiet or silent torpedo launch mechanism.

Gunbuster

Lots of torpedoes can swim out rather than get blown out but that’s dependent on water pressure/depth. . Launch systems now use high-pressure water not air to force them out if a swim out is not possible. Water is quieter than air. As a heavyweight torpedo has a range well in excess of 20Km any transient is going to be difficult to detect. Add to that you can wire guide them to attack from a direction that the sub is not in (dogleg it) and have it come in slow and quiet (passive) before going fast and active make it… Read more »

Steve

I’ve always been curious how long the optical links are, as clearly you can’t have a cable running 20km from the sub. I assume they are pretty much just used to ensure the torpedo has not targeted the launch sub, and has a decent lock on what is it heading for.

Watcherzero

No they are actually 20-30km usually, the Mk48 torpedo has 10km on the torpedo and 10 in the tube.

Steve

That is a whole load of cable. You would think the odds of it getting jammed would be pretty high, especially if it hasn’t be touched in a fair while.

Meirion X

Not too long ago, the trolls here were saying the RN did not have sub available to test them!

Humm, I wonder, who that was now?

Cam

Hmm I don’t know mate. But the RN could fire them from their choppers couldn’t they? And the 8 type 23 frigates torpedo tubes. Hell couldn’t a type 45 launch them torpedoes with its chopper?

Daniele Mandelli

No Cam. This is a heavyweight torpedo for use by SSN. Helicopters use Stingray, a much lighter Torpedo.

Jonathan

No cam they are 23 feet long and weigh over 4000lbs, that’s about 55-60% of the empty weight and just under 50% as long as wildcat.

Daniele Mandelli

I thought the same MX. I even remember the quoted article from Sputnik news. More total twaddle…

Daniele Mandelli

Having said that, these tests are undertaken at the underwater ranges of BUTEC, and other sites with lots of specialist facilities. They might not have involved the use of an SSN, or even need to. The article implies as such. So the troll article may have been “technically” correct on the lack of SSN, while remaining full of nonsense elsewhere.

It really does not matter. I recall Sea Viper was launched off a barge…

JohnHartley

Well the Swedes say you need an anti ship missile to disable an enemy warship & then a torpedo to sink it/finish it off.
I still wish RN surface warships had a couple of heavy torpedo tubes to deliver the final blow.

Tim

I would think surface ships would be better served with missiles rather than torpedoes which really depend on not being seen and if your in a ship close enough to use torpedos chances are you will be seen

JohnHartley

Once an enemy ship is disabled with a missile, it is then safe for you to get close enough to finish it off/sink it with a torpedo. That is the Swedish thinking.

Cam

The 8 type 23s do though don’t they. But the new type 26s won’t I believe, but the OZ and Canadian Type 26s will have torpedo tubes, so who’s right then?

Gunbuster

Depends on your tactics and weapon of choice. Tubes are useless in blue water against a sub that has fired from 20+km away. A lightweight torpedo is no good… It just won’t have the legs.
Against a close in target tubes are good if you have a decent weapon in them. But… If you let a sub get that close anyway its probably killed you already.

JohnHartley

One source says Spearfish has a range of 36.5 KM at 24 knots, or 22.9 km at 65 knots. OK not the long missile range, but not whites of eyes either.

Joe16

Yes, but what Gunbuster is saying is justified; the torpedo tubes that Cam references carry lightweight Stingray torpedoes, which have a much shorter range than the heavyweight Spearfish. You really would have to be close to a sub or other vessel to be in range with a Stingray.

JohnHartley

Is Stingray dual purpose? I was told not. Many lightweight torpedoes can hit surface ships as well as submarines, but Stingray is submarine hunting only.

AlexS

Only 2 navies have had heavy torpedoes in surface combatants recently: Italy and Russia.

4thwatch

Agreed. How else do you dispose of derelicts and ones own terminally damaged ships to prevent their capture by the enemy. 21in TT were used extensively for these purposes in real war.
These TTs can have a major tactical role in enclosed waters if AI is used. Their range is 30-40 nm.

Gunbuster

Why waste a multi million pound torpedo. If its a hulk open the sea valves and let it go glug glug glug. Or blow some holes in it below the water line with some well placed Dems charges.. A couple of sticks of PE4 and det cord per compartment and its job done.

ChariotRider

In Spearfish heavyweight and Sting Ray lightweight torpedos the UK has two of the best ASW weapons in the world. The Spearfish is also cery capable against service targets as the article points out.

That is quite a dent in the nose cone of that torpedo…

Gunbuster

That’s the rubber cover for the torpedo nose. You put it on during recovery so that you don’t dint the sonar transducers.
Post run, the torpedo is serviced and overhauled and is good to go again either as a warshot with a new insensitive munition warhead or a Instrumentation and recovery package for more trials. Same thing happens with Sting ray as well.

ChariotRider

Thanks Gunbuster, I knew we reuse torpedoes – they’re expensive have all, but hadn’t appreciated to cycle.

Cheer CR

Gunbuster

The yellow collar near the nose is the recovery float collar that deploys at the end of the run so it floats upright for recovery. Note the guy wearing hazmat at the rear. The fuel is a bit iffy so you need to wear impermeable suits when near it and after a run you are never sure if any of it has leaked.

Sting ray is similar… A floatation collar deploys after a run and you need to wear a hazmat suit because of the nasties in the sea water battery

Disco wurz

you sound like a member of the Stingray trials team.

Gunbuster

I was on a T22 doing similar trials back in the 90s with Spearfish at BUTEC and with Sting Ray at AUTEC. SPEARFISH hunts for the ship but the computer is programmed with a miss distance so that it believes its going for the ship but actually flies under it by a number of meters. You can’t see anything from the surface looking down…. There where lots us trying…. No WW2 trail of bubbles. it’s inbound at a ridiculous speed and it’s quiet because of the cowled propulsor. You only know its flown by when range safety declares the run… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Any reason for use of AUTEC for the Stingray rather than BUTEC? I know AUTEC obviously has a much much bigger area to play with.

Jaymac

Autec is 6000 ft deep.
BUTEC is 300m max.

Gunbuster

The Bahamas are sunny and not cold and wet like Scotland would be my No1 reason!.

No real reason that I know of. BUTEC is just preferred for Heavyweight torpedo trials. Logistically the subs are closer to Faslane for getting reloads I suppose. On a Frigate its not so much of an issue to RAS or reload Sting Ray.

Daniele Mandelli

Right.

farouk

To be fair, I’d the RN had this Stingray
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWNnLZ-wH0U

Mark L

Many years ago we were planning Stingray Helo VECTAC trials. When they were going to be at AUTEC every man and his dog had a thousand reasons for why they had to go. Then the trials got moved to Norway and suddenly it was difficult to find anyone.

Gunbuster

Yep… Always the same. Norway or Bahamas which would you go for…. Personally It never bothered me I actually really like Norway.. There are no bad runs…. Just bad runners…

Andy P

“There are no bad runs…. Just bad runners…” Tru dat GB, I was part of Sceptre’s (3rd Commission) first (semi official) run ashore at Loch Goil. I’m not gonna say it was better than Berma-du or P-Can etc but we all had a very successful ‘messy’ night.

Barry Larking

The Outer Sound of Raasay is very deep. It all looked very calm when I saw it last week …

Andy P

I’ve been up there as the ‘target boat’ for Stingray firings at BUTEC, I guess budget plays a part. I’ve also been involved in a Hulkex (sinking HMS Brave) out at AUTEC, finishing it off with a Spearfish.

Gunbuster

Early pre production Sting ray trials at AUTEC apparently resulted in a MK75 EVT (Exercise variant) hitting an S boat and then circling and re-attacking to hit again, and circling and re-attacking to hit again… Emergency blow and surface to asses the dents in the outer hull

Jonathan

Blimey, need to keep your fingers crossed it does not get confused/miss it’s depth and hit the ship. The kinetic energy in a Spear fish would around 1.7 million joules focused on a small area. That’s going to leave a dent.

Jaymac

Most torpedoes are swimout including Spearfish.
The clue is usually the tube door opening.
The eject wash noise from the swimout is minimal.
At circa 20km the door opening is the trigger for torpedo defence.
It’s all about piecing together what is happening.

Deep32

Gents, regarding the launching of Spearfish, I’ve only ever known them launched from a SM, don’t believe they can be launched from anything else. SSN or SSBN, take your pick.

Deep32

Jaymac, unfortunately you are a bit wide of the mark regarding Spearfish. It’s not and never has been a swimout weapon. All RN nuc SM use Water Ram Discharge to eject their weapons, its initiated using HPA at approx 3700 psi. The noisy bit is the ram reaching the end of its travel and then being recocked for another shot. The outer tube doors would already be open well before weapon discharge, so no noise from that. Hope this clears up any confusion.