Articles

This is what a modern torpedo does to a ship

If you have seen films from "Operation Pacific" to "Run Silent, Run Deep," the portrayals of torpedo attacks have often involved a spread of torpedoes, hoping to get at least one hit to cripple an enemy vessel allowing the sub to close in and finish it off.


Technicians perform maintenance on a Mark 48 advanced capabilities torpedo at Keyport, Washington in 1982. (U.S. Navy photo)

For American submariners, though, their Mark 14 torpedoes were one technical failure after another.

First, they ran too deep. Then there was that magnetic exploder (which premature all too often), and then, the firing pins were a hot mess.

The problems got fixed…in September, 1943. To paraphrase what John Wayne's Duke Gifford said in Operation Pacific, "Now, we had torpedoes."

A torpedo hits a Mk 48 ADCAP during a SINKEX. (Youtube screenshot)

Today, our subs use the Mark 48. Unlike the Mark 14, the Mark 48 is a guided torpedo that can adjust its course to pursue a target using active and passive sonar.

The Mark 48 has reinstated that magnetic exploder in a "proximity fuse" approach (yeah, we'll see how it does outside a test range), and it is also very capable of handling submarines and surface ships.

This is what the torpedo did to the bow of the Perry-class frigate. (Youtube screenshot)

With a top speed of at least 55 knots, the Mark 48 can catch just about any vessel if fired from a close enough range.

So, what can the torpedo do? Watch the video below to find out. The target, in this case, is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate – a 4,200 ton warship. By comparison, a Yugumo-class destroyer, a typical Japanese destroyer of the World War II era, displaced about 2,500 tons.

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