The Navy in January is expected to release a request for proposals to field its first completely new torpedo since the 1990s.
Northrop Grumman has announced its intention to enter the compact rapid attack weapon program, which will seek to find a manufacturer for the prototype of a lightweight torpedo developed at Pennsylvania State University’s Applied Research Laboratory.
“This is a really interesting weapon and with advanced electronics and advanced computing, it’s going to make it extremely effective,” said Dave Allan, director of business development at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems.
Operators will be able to instantly load software into the weapon, giving it defensive or offensive capabilities shortly before being fired, he said.
The compact rapid attack weapon (CRAW) is the offensive version of the torpedo and the countermeasure anti-torpedo (CAT) is the defensive version.
“The only difference fundamentally between the defensive capability of the very lightweight torpedo, which is CAT and the offensive capability, which is CRAW, is the software that gets loaded onto the weapon at time of launch,” Allan said.
A previous iteration of the Penn State-designed torpedo was fielded as a defensive weapon intended to take out incoming torpedoes fired at aircraft carriers. That program has since been canceled, although the system remains on a small number of carriers, said David Portner, program manager for the very lightweight torpedo at Northrop Grumman.
The submarine community expressed an interest in the technology because of its size and weight, he said. Northrop Grumman has invested internal research-and-development funding to improve the design.
“The nice thing about it is it’s about one-third the size of the existing Mark 54 [lightweight] torpedo,” he said. That weighs about 600 pounds.