Boeing is expected to develop launch kits soon for the American Navy’s Mark 54 (Mk 54) torpedo, permitting them to be dropped from about 30,000 feet from anti-submarine warfare (better known as the ASW) aircraft and attack enemy submarines from long ranges as well as high altitudes.
The “flying torpedo” would be a one-of-its-kind system that would eliminate the requirement for planes to come close to the water to release submarine weapons.
Popular as the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare (also called the HAAWC) Air Launch Accessory (abbreviated ALA), it will be installed on Mk 54s by Boeing Co. Defense, Space & Security as a part of a $12 million Naval Sea Systems Command (abbreviated the NSSC) contract.
The Mk 54s are a Raytheon product fired by the P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and the ASW aircraft operated by the US Navy.
The Indian Navy reportedly uses an iteration of the aircraft christened the P-8 India (P-8I) Poseidon.
Coupled with rising tensions with China, wherein a naval clash will characterize a probable war between two superpowers in the western Pacific, the system extends a massive tactical benefit in a standoff ASW strike that largely keeps away from several surface-to-air missiles (SAM).
From Torpedo to a Flying Torpedo
The HAAWC ALA helps enable the Raytheon MK 54 torpedo to glide via the air from altitudes as high as 30,000 feet, transforming the torpedo into a glide weapon that can attack enemy submarines from very long ranges.
As the torpedo comes close to the water, its jettisons its wings and tail and takes on the initial role of an intelligent torpedo. On shedding control surfaces, the HAAWC ALA sends out a parachute from the back that can break, fall and step into the water.
From there onward, it begins its run toward the target. The torpedo can attack, detect, and track enemy submarines autonomously.
When launched from 30,000 feet, the HAAWC-empowered MK 54 torpedo will glide for seven to 10 minutes before stepping into the water. When in flight, the HAAWC glide weapons are self-contained.
The ALA includes a flight-control computer, a unique GPS-based navigation system, and power sources. The control surfaces gradually move around to steer the munitions toward the target via the air.
Fixed-wing and anti-submarine aircraft and helicopters had to launch torpedoes from altitudes that were not above 100 feet.
While this may not always be posing threats to the aircraft, as a submarine is unable to attack an overhead plane, particularly from under the water, during traditional fleet-on-fleet combat with an adverse navy, the plane having to descend can entail coming in the range of ship-borne medium-range surface-to-air missiles (or the SAM).
However, the HAAWC will enable the P-8A aircraft to maintain adequate surveillance altitudes, not wasting fuel and time to descend and go back to the high-patrol altitudes.
Attacking from high altitudes helps enable the P-8A to lower the time between the target acquisition and the attack and send out anti-submarine weapons outside ranges of shore-based, anti-aircraft defences, mentioned in a report on the Military Electronics and Aerospace.
The Mk 54 is an all-digital lightweight torpedo with advanced software algorithms developed originally for the giant submarine-launched Mark 48 torpedo.
India has reportedly bought the Mk 54, too, as they had to be separately bought for the P-8I aircraft. In December 2021 (December), it was reported that the Ministry of Defense had signed a deal with the US government to procure an MK-54 Torpedo and expendables for approximately Rs 423 crore.
In April of the same year, the US Department of State approved this Foreign Military Sale to India at an estimated cost of about $63 million. The main contractor for the first contract is Raytheon Integrated Defense System.
Boeing’s HAAWC ALA for the MK 54 torpedo boasts wings designed explicitly for Boeing AGM-84H/K’s Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (abbreviated the SLAM-ER).
The tail assembly, in the meantime, includes the guidance kit originally designed for the Joint Direct-Attack Munition (abbreviated the JDAM), which comprises a unique GPS navigation system.
This permits the munitions to go through a cloud cover. Boeing fits the HAAWC with a data link for transmitting the target position updates in flight.
The HAAWC ALA is similar to the Paveway series of advanced, laser-guided bomb modules by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin for a series of unguided drop bombs in the US Air Force (USAF) and the inventory of the US Navy (USN).
References: Eurasian Times, Military Aerospace Electronics
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