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Flattops getting new torpedo defense system

Apr. 6, 2013 - 09:54AM   |  
The Rapid Prototype Torpedo Warning System is lowered into the water aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush March 19. The system allows the carrier to detect and destroy an incoming threat, rather than simply avoid it.
The Rapid Prototype Torpedo Warning System is lowered into the water aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush March 19. The system allows the carrier to detect and destroy an incoming threat, rather than simply avoid it. (MC2 Tony D. Curtis / Navy)
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Carriers are getting a new defense against enemy torpedoes that will be easy for sailors to operate. The Rapid Prototype Torpedo Warning System and Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo System will give carriers a hard-kill method for eliminating incoming torpedo attacks.

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Carriers are getting a new defense against enemy torpedoes that will be easy for sailors to operate. The Rapid Prototype Torpedo Warning System and Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo System will give carriers a hard-kill method for eliminating incoming torpedo attacks.

The carrier George H.W. Bush is the first to get it; at-sea tests began March 19. After more testing this summer, Bush will deploy with the system in early 2014, said Capt. Brian “Lex” Luther, commanding officer of the Bush and a rear-admiral select.

The initial testing went “exceptionally smooth,” Luther told Navy Times.

“My sailors took to it and qualified on it in half the time that the program office team was expecting. By the end of the at-sea period, George H.W. Bush sailors were routinely deploying and retrieving the towed array,” he said.

Under the existing fleetwide system, carriers throw a towed array into the water that emits sounds to acoustically throw off a torpedo attack, explained Capt. Moises DelToro, program manager for undersea defensive warfare systems at Naval Sea Systems Command. Then, ships speed up and maneuver to avoid being hit.

However, there are new types of torpedoes this system would be ineffective against, DelToro said.

The new system’s array is launched in a similar fashion as the legacy version, but when it recognizes a potential torpedo attack, sailors can launch a 6.75-inch-long countermeasure anti-torpedo, which will explode close enough to the incoming threat to neutralize it, DelToro said.

If an attack is detected, an alarm sounds on the bridge, where sailors can launch the anti-torpedo system. Sonar technicians (surface) were in charge of operating the system during the test on the Bush, Luther said.

Though Navy ships aren’t often targeted with torpedo attacks, installing the new system is worth it to protect an expensive carrier, DelToro said.

“If you look at the value of an aircraft carrier and the cost of an aircraft carrier, the cost of putting a system like this on there to protect that capital asset is well worth the cost,” DelToro said.

The new system costs about $20 million, including all equipment and installation costs, he said.

The Navy’s plan is to install the new system on two carriers each in fiscal 2014, 2015 and 2016. The remaining carriers will be fitted with the system in 2019. Once all the carriers have it, the Navy will begin installing it on combat logistics force ships, including oilers or supply ships, DelToro said.

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