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“As of 2016, the service had expected all of its operators and other high-value ships to have the new anti-torpedo defenses by the end of 2035. Now it will eliminate all the ATTDS components of the five operators with the end-of-2023 system.”

The United States Navy halted the development of an anti-torpedo defense system for its ships last year due to poor performance, including untrustworthy sensors and interceptor torpedoes, and will eliminate the prototype systems of five companies in the next four years. This occurs at a time when the service routinely sounds the alarm about the growth of submarine threats, especially to high-value ships, of potential “high-power competitors” such as Russia and China.

The latest annual report from the Office of the Director of Testing and Evaluation of the Pentagon, or DOT & E, revealed the decision of the Navy to suspend work on what is officially called the Torpedo Defense System (ATTDS) in September 2018. DOT & E publishes these reports to provide a public summary of important test developments regarding major US military programs. UU in the previous fiscal year.

Currently, three of the aircraft carriers of the Nimitz class of the Navy – USS George HW Bush, USS Harry S. Truman and USS Nimitz have installed engineering prototypes and ATTDS development models. Bush was the first to receive the ATTDS in 2013. Two other Nimitz class airlines, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Theodore Roosevelt, initially had provisional versions of the roll-on / roll-off system, but the Navy finally added full prototypes. to those boats.

The basic components of the ATTDS in the five operators are the same. It consists of the Torpedo Warning System (TWS) and the Anti-Torpedo Countermeasure (CAT).

The TWS includes a towed acoustic sensor that crawls behind the ship to detect potential threats, classify them and provide guidance information for the CAT. The CAT is a “hard death” interceptor similar to a torpedo that is installed in the torpedo and destroys it, either by physically crushing it or with its own explosive warhead. You can read more about the system and how the Navy expected it to work here.

The problem, according to DOT & E, is that after more than five years of development, the demonstrated capabilities of ATTDS were improving, but not fast enough. The performance of the system in tests and other evaluations, even during the operational deployments in Bush, Eisenhower and Nimitz in the fiscal year 2017, was limited.

“TWS demonstrated some ability to detect incoming torpedoes,” the DOT & E report explained for the 2018 fiscal year. “The importance and effect of false target alerts on TWS capability is unknown.”

“CAT demonstrated some ability to defeat an incoming torpedo,” the annual review continued. “The CAT has an uncertain reliability. The lethality of CAT is not proven “.

In summary, the two main components of the torpedo defense system have shown, in principle, that they could destroy an incoming threat, but they are not reliable enough to accurately assess those capabilities. The latest DOT & E report is, otherwise, light on specific details.

However, the DOT & E reviews of previous years shed some additional light on important ongoing problems. On the one hand, the system apparently suffers a high rate of false alarms when there are a large number of other ships present. This could suggest that the TWS might have difficulty detecting a real threat in the midst of other friendly ships, neutral ships that a hostile submarine could use to conceal its approach, or anything else that creates acoustic signatures during a real combat scenario.

The active acoustic sensor component of the system, which could have helped mitigate that with its ability to actively search for targets, was still under test at the time the Navy stopped work in 2018. In all cases, an operator had deployed with the ATTDS installed, the TWS was capable of passive detection only. The DOT & E report for fiscal year 2017 says that teams on board Bush, Eisenhower and Nimitz rarely bothered to deploy the TWS matrix during their cruises and, therefore, gathered little information on how it could work under conditions real.

DOT & E also criticized the Navy’s use of highly scheduled tests to evaluate the performance of the CAT, as well as the relevance of the substitute torpedo objectives in reality. The service’s existing training objectives are modified American designs and are not designed to reflect the specific capabilities of any foreign torpedo. As such, while the tests met the requirements of the Navy, DOT & E said it was impossible to assess whether the data was representative of how the anti-torpedo interceptor would behave against a real threat.


The ATTDS was supposed to be part of the larger Surface Boat Torpedo Defense (SSTD) system, which also includes the Nixie AN / SLQ-25 and the Mk 2 Acoustic Device Countermeasure (ADC), which are already in generalized service of the Navy. The Nixie is a towed lure intended to attract enemy torpedoes. The ADC is a separation system that is launched from the Navy ships and then settles to a predetermined depth by pumping acoustic noise to attract torpedoes.

It was assumed that the full agreement would provide significant protection against underwater threats for Navy carriers and other high-value ships, such as amphibious assault ships. It is assumed that the additional protection offered by ATTDS reflects the real and growing threat of advanced submarines, including diesel-electric types increasingly difficult to detect with air-independent propulsion systems (AIP). Both China and Russia seek to expand the size and capabilities of their submarine fleets and many of their new non-nuclear submarine designs are available for export, increasing the potential for these potential threats to proliferate.

This does not mean anything of increasingly capable Chinese and Russian torpedoes, many of which are also available in the export market. The latest variants and derivatives of the Russian Type 53 family have ranges of more than 12 miles, characteristics to overcome acoustic countermeasures and zig-zag in the terminal phase of their attack so that they are particularly difficult to evade or intercept.

Although its general configuration is designed by reverse engineering from the US Mk 48 torpedo. The Chinese Yu-6 has some capabilities similar to those of Type 53. In 2012, the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLAN) introduced the Yu-9, which is quieter, electric version of the Yu- 6 which is more difficult to detect.

However, the most recent DOT & E report does not offer any recommendations on how the Navy could proceed, which implies that the ATTDS program could end up completely restructured or completely canceled. In 2017, the Navy delayed the planned date to reach the initial operational capacity with the system from 2018 to 2022.

As of 2016, the service expected all its carriers and other high-value vessels to have the new anti-torpedo defenses by the end of 2035. It will now remove all ATTDS components from the five carriers with the system by the end of 2023.

However, it seems hard to believe that the Navy would not try, at least, to eliminate some system capabilities. The service has received more than $ 760 million in funds for the continued development of the entire SSTD, including almost $ 85 million in the ATTDS in the defense budgets of fiscal year 2017 and 2018 alone.

As already mentioned, there is certainly a continuing need to improve the defenses against the torpedo, which only seems to grow urgently in the coming years, too. Whether ATTDS, or a revamped version of the system, ultimately provides the capability or not, the expensive carriers of the Navy and other large surface ships still desperately need a more robust range of defenses against enemy submarines.


Source: ES News-Front