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Torpedo-killing torpedoes can be a real option. The absence of radar detection underwater removes the option of computing near-real-time flight paths needed so one missile can hit another. Still, some governments believe it can be done. Naval forces worldwide are trying to advance the idea of anti-torpedo torpedoes, with varying success, aiming to translate the promises of missile defense technology into undersea warfare.
If it works, the threat to surface ships by enemy submarines could be significantly blunted, changing a trend in naval capabilities that has defense analysts increasingly worried.
Defensenews.com elaborates on several examples. The German Navy has been using the SeaSpider interceptor torpedo, made by the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems subsidiary Atlas Elektronik. A prototype of the system was installed on a multipurpose vessel for a successful December 2017 intercept test off Germany’s Baltic Sea coast. Following analysis of the data in 2018, Atlas said it was only now given government permission to publicize the event.
The Russian Navy is fielding the Paket-E/NK weapon, a dual-use torpedo that can be fired against submarines and incoming torpedoes.
In Turkey, defense contractor Aselsan successfully tested the Tork hard-kill torpedo in a project supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey.
In the United States, a similar project appears to have suffered a setback. According to the Pentagon chief weapons tester’s annual report covering 2018, the U.S. Navy last fall suspended the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense system that had been installed on aircraft carriers.
One of the key problems in building an anti-torpedo torpedo system lies in reducing false-alarm rates in characterizing objects as enemy torpedoes. Atlas Elektronik believes its SeaSpider can overcome that obstacle by combining signals from shipboard sensors with those picked up by the interceptor’s seeker.
“That’s the main challenge,” SeaSpider project head Thorsten Bochentin told Defense News.
In addition, the company touts the low cost of its system. The assertion comes as the missile defense community looks for cheaper alternatives to pricey interceptors — directed energy, for example.
According to Atlas Elektronik, the next step involves tests with the Navy’s WTD71 to deploy the SeaSpider from moving vessels. Additionally, engineers want to demonstrate its capability against wake-homing torpedoes, considered one of the most acute threats to surface ships against which there are few defenses.