Navy sub adm: We need new weapons

Navy sub adm: We need new weapons

Rear Adm. Barry Bruner remembers learning about the Navy submarine force’s workhorse weapons — the Mark 48 advanced capability torpedo and the Tomahawk cruise missile — on his first day aboard almost 30 years ago.

Earlier this fall, when he took over as the Navy Staff’s top planner for undersea warfare, he got another brief on the very same weapons.

It is what it is, Bruner told attendees at the Naval Submarine League’s annual convention outside Washington — both weapons are still the best in the world. But as the submarine force tries to remake itself for a new era of operations, it will need new weapons and tools to keep its edge, he said. The trick, of course, will be funding them.

“We need a ‘missile of the future,’” Bruner said, one that will help Navy submarines outpace the anti-access and area-denial strategies that DoD believes will be the stock in trade of future U.S. enemies. Bruner said he and his staff have looked at some 17 different missiles, at various stages of development or maturity, but still haven’t found one that could complement or replace the Tomahawk.

That goes both for land attack and anti-ship missiles, but there may be a special urgency for a new anti-ship missile. Although everyone involved likes to tiptoe politely when this subject comes up, there may be a need someday for the Navy to attack large numbers of well-defended surface targets … somewhere … in the event of any unpleasantness.

But the service has a checkered history with anti-ship missiles: Submarines and new-model destroyers do not carry its Cold War-era Harpoon, and the anti-ship variant of the Tomahawk that young Ensign Bruner’s first boat once carried is gone from the arsenal. Today, the pendulum is slowly swinging in the other direction. The surface Navy is interested in a potential new anti-ship missile under development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but it’s a long way off — and for Bruner’s purposes, it might not be of any use to the Silent Service.

Bruner answered a question about DARPA’s missile by acknowledging that he’s been briefed on it, but said he does not have much detail. He did say that, in an ideal world, the Navy Staff directorates for surface, undersea and air warfare — known in the blue world as N86, N87 and N88 respectively — could collaborate and theoretically create something the entire fleet could use. But well before it got there, the brass would have to answer some big questions:

“That’s an area I’m still trying to figure out what I think the right answer is,” he said. “As we had off to the future, the right answer will be dependent on many things. If we can leverage with N86 and N88, save money and get the perect missile that meets all three war-fighting requirements, that is where we’d want togo. Next, you have to ask, though, ‘How much is it going cost, when’s it going to get here, how many can we build…” — and so forth.

The Tomahawk is fine for now, Bruner said, but he asked rhetorically whether it would still be the best strike weapon for the Navy of 2025.

Same goes for torpedoes, Bruner said. The latest-model Mk 48 heavyweight weapons are perfect for today’s submarines, but the Navy needs to begin pushing their basic technology forward as much as possible. He showed a PowerPoint slide that depicted future “modular” Mk 48 variants with different components, including different weapons payloads — or no weapons payloads — different motors and other components.

A future variant of the torpedo might prowl at slow speed waiting on its own for a target, or function as a disposable sensor for its parent submarine: Using the existing wire guidance system that ships now use to steer their fish toward their target, a sub could send out a sensor torpedo to investigate a box of ocean where it didn’t want to stick its own nose in — then, if necessary, quickly prosecute any targets.

This notion, along with standalone unmanned underwater vehicles, will be a big part of tomorrow’s undersea battles, Bruner said.

“This is where we need to go. Right now, this has my full attention. We can get into this pretty quickly but it costs money — but that’s in short demand right now.”

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Develop an updated Harpoon anti-ship missile. They’ll do the job assigned, which is the 30 mile out target. Just upgrade the MK-48 Advanced Capbility torpedo software. Build for the Soviet Akula class, there will be nothing out there that can beat it. Upgrade the Tomahawks. One lesson never learned is to NOT build weapons for imaginary enemies and threats. Don’t need to design new stuff all the time just to keep out labs, defense contractors and admirals fully employed. Just keep it modern.

Anything that makes our subs more effective is money well spent. Now we just need to build more. The block V proposal for the VA class is a good idea for a SSGN replacement down the road when the Ohios reach then end of their lives, its actually the only idea being talked about so that makes it the only game in town.

SSGN’s loaded with 72 of ATK’s Submarine Launched Global Strike Missiles says bad day in Pyongyang.

Yeah that works — until you don’t have people who know how to design decent weapons anymore. There’s a reason we’re having so many failures trying to create a supersonic, air-breathing missile.

I agree with the Adm here, we need to push the development envelope more. The only way to prevent war is to ensure that one has the baddest of the bad ass weapons out there, where the bad guys would have to be “crazy” to take us on. Right now the Russians and Chinese and nipping at our heels, and soon they’ll jump up and bite us in the balls when we least expect it.

They would have only been able to carry about 44 of the ATK missiles, and the program was cancelled anyway. The article doesn’t say so by name, but the ArcLight research DARPA funded is something that’s potentially out there down the road, too soon to say if it will work but the basic idea of it has been around awhile.

ArcLight. SLIRBM program was nixed.

Ever taught of a torpedo anti ship missiles that can fly low above sea level, under water undetected for the country’s self defense.

What, paying contractors a profit on development is resulting in no new weapons being built? Wow, who would have seen that coming? Certainly not the brain trust that runs the Navy.

Yep, it’s all the contractors fault. It has nothing to do with how the only contracts in recent years have been for further developments of the Mk.48 ADCAP and Tomahawk, as opposed to anything completely new.

I don’t think the problem is the supersonic part. I think it’s more related to how they usually want hypersonic speeds and in that 21″ footprint for Mk.41 VLS use.

Greedy contractors will always blame the government.

As the admiral says we have the best weapons in the world but he needs to put out some new contracts to secure his retirement on the board of directors of a supplier.

Contractors make comparatively little profit on development. The REAL money (ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE MORE) is in BUILDING weapons! But Congress is so cheap that they FAR TOO OFTEN cancel programs before they reach production — & then waste MORE money on ANOTHER development program for what could/should already be in production.

Ignorant fools always blaim the contractors…

Two problems with that are: 1.modifying the software does nothing to improve the hardware, and 2. these weapons are already hardware limited. Until and unless the hardware is up-graded the performance will not match any software mods. Remember the ADCAP was introduced 30 years ago as a stopgap measure when Congress cut funding for new torpedo development and the MK48 proved unable to deal with new Soviet Submarine designs.

While the brass of the “technologically unbeatable” U.S. American submarine force contemplates building a new, “modern” torpedo (or not), the Soviet / Russian “Shkval” hyper-velocity torpedo is already reaching its 34th year of age.


The MK 48 mod 4 was more than capaeable of taking out Akula’s or anything else the russians had, the ADCAP only insured that no future threat would be able to use decoys or biologic transmitters to hide behind. The guide wire does not steer the torpedo it only allows you to change the search parimiters and the torpedo is so good the wire is usualy cut shortly after launch. Harpoons and bravo t hawks were good but just too heavy limiting range and payload but this could be fixed using carbon fiber matrerials in place of metal these days since these are encapsulated missiles. Micro technology for torps and missiles electronis would allow adding more payload and fuel as well.

1) “Early designs may have relied solely on an inertial guidance system. The initial design was intended for nuclear warhead delivery. Later designs reportedly include terminal guidance and conventional warheads of 210 kg (460 lb).“

2) ” ‘Shkval 2′ — Current variant; believed to have additional guidance systems, possibly via the use of vectored thrust, and with much longer range.“

The great thing about sticking your head into the sand is: If you can’t see the threat, it doesn’t exist!

To the poster “BOOMER”

You wrote: “The MK 48 mod 4 was more than capable of taking out Akula’s or anything else the Russians had”

Wrong: During the Cold War, the Soviet submarines (especially their SSBNs) gradually grew so thick-skinned (meaning double titanium hulls) that the U.S. Navy worried loud whether its torpedoes would still tickle them, or whether they would have to refit them all with hollow charge warheads. That much I clearly remember. (And that’s already presuming that the U.S. torpedoes actually met those targets)

And for a submarine whose ENTIRE torpedo section blew up, the “Kursk“‘s remaining hull was also still in spectacularly good condition after sinking to the bottom of the sea! Try that on an old “Los Angeles” once, instead of just scuttling or scrapping it. Just to see how long you would still yap in its stern.

RATTLRS, Hyfly, Fasthawk, X-51 (just for starters) are either failures or headed that way. The footprint issue has little, if anything, to do with it. ASLAM was a VLS-size weapon that reached Mach 5.4 30 years ago. Too bad that team isn’t around anymore to show us how it’s done.

So was Arc Light.

Actualy only alphas had titanium hulls and the russians moved away from using it on subs because it is too brittle for constant compressing and expanding. A submerged target is easier to sink at times than a surface target because of the added sea preassure.. A MK 48 mod 4’s 640lb PBXN104 warhead = 3,000 lbs of tnt which is way more than needed to sink a sub greater than 200 ft depth, as well as sink any surface ship afloat. torpedos unlike missiles do not actualy hit thier targets but detonate aprox 20′ ft from them or underneath for surfeace ships. As far as finding thier target, a Mk 48 can search in either active — passive or a combination of both to track its target.

Got a link? Because as of last fall this winter I have read nothing to say that.

DARPA’s new Naval missile program is reportedly using ASLAM motors for its prototypes

Yeah, right, that’s why these defense contractors make record profits while not building anything. Building a weapon means you either have to have capital equipment (NC machinery, etc.) to make it yourself, or you need to have suppliers that have such equipment make it for you. Either way there is a lot more risk in cutting metal than their is in building paper weapons that work as long as you say they work.

You’re the one who’s all about blame. I’m about fixing the stupidity. You can blame all you want, blame is not going to keep the Commie hoards from coming over the hill.

Dfens — “Commie hoards” really? At least make your comments sound like something other than a 1960 Civil Defense film.…..

Yeah, they’re going to have to blow a few decades of dust off them. It’s a shame we don’t have the talent to build new.

Hey, once a Cold Warrior, always a Cold Warrior. At least the old Commies had the decency to tell us they were going to bury us up front. The new Commies just hand us a long piece of rope and watch as we hang ourselves with it.

These days the “Commie hoards” are all those people who shop at Walmart.

When I first read this I noticed last line, first paragraph — Tomahawk …nearly 30 years ago (so the news release author wrote)

True, my left brain isn’t very big but.…Tomahawk was officially capable of launching on surface ships and subs (via VLS) in 1983 when its project manager, Capt. Yockey, retired.

Allowing for ” nearly 30 years ago,” RADM Bruner must have boarded a Tomahawk-capable sub in 1983?

Defense contractors don’t make record profits. In fact their profit margins are generally LOWER than most other industries.

That ‘capital equipment’ (among other start-up costs) is why early LRIP weapons systems cost so much more than later full rate production.

BS! YOU are the one placing blaim. And you are placing said blaim on the WRONG people. Defense contractors is NOT where the stupidity is…

Good one!

It was in AvWeek months ago. I don’t recall the issue. You might check out the Secret Projects website, I know it was discussed over there.

We should be focusing on the platform as well as the weapons. With the proliferation of undetectable AIP boats at around 4 per billion, why do we continue to build monster nuclear clankers? Nuke boats are cool, but we need dominance in the littorals as well as in the big blue-water.
We should stop all the ring-knocking-nuketestesterone pontifications and start a parallel AIP boat program of our own.
By the way, I served under Cmdr. Harry Yockey on the Salmon (SS573) in the early ’70’s. Good guy. I believe I was the only one aboard who beat him at chess…once…


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