Royal Navy's £270m hi-tech torpedo upgrade nears completion as tests on Portsmouth-built weapon are carried out
MUNITIONS experts from Portsmouth have been behind crafting the world’s most advanced torpedo – which is now on the cusp of entering service in the Royal Navy.
The upgraded Spearfish – the principal weapon of the UK’s submarine flotilla against enemy ships and submarines – has been under-going trials in Scotland.
The deadly torpedo, which is capable of ‘breaking the backs’ of the world’s most advance warships, has been developed by a team of 100 engineers and experts from BAE Systems in Portsmouth.
They have spent almost six years working improving the torpedo at BAE Systems’ Broadoak weapons facility in Airport Service Road, Copnor.
The overhauled torpedo will be introduced to front-line hunter-killer and nuclear-deterrent submarines over the next three years – and in service into the 2050s.
The weapons upgraded warhead is a six times more powerful than that carried by the smaller Sting Ray torpedo, fired the navy’s fleet of frigates or launched from Merlin and Wildcat helicopters.
And the weapon system has been put through its paces with both its software and hardware tested in a series of demo firings against Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland.
The warship was assessed to see if she could defeat the new-look Spearfish, using a mix of evasive manoeuvres to evade the torpedo and advanced acoustic counter-measures to lure it away from Sutherland.
Anyone expecting tell-tale submarine wakes streaking through the waters was disappointed as Spearfish was set to ‘run deep’ for safety reasons – so the ‘battle’ was played out on the displays in Sutherland’s operations room, where the shrill sound of whistles announced a torpedo in the water.
‘During the trial this week we have put our elite training into action, using a variety of underwater sensors to locate and track the weapon,’ said 23-year-old Able Seaman Matthew Brown, one of the underwater warfare specialists who’s been tracking Spearfish.
‘Having one of the most advanced and capable torpedoes in the world fired at you certainly puts the pressure on.’
The Royal Navy is investing £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 effectiveness.
A final trial of Spearfish will take place later this year before the weapon is declared operational and begins being delivered to the submarine fleet.