Torpedoes are self-propelled guided projectiles that operate underwater and are designed to detonate on contact or in proximity to a target. They may be launched from submarines, surface ships, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. They are also used as parts of other weapons; the Mark 46 torpedo becomes the warhead section of the ASROC (Anti-Submarine ROCket) and the Captor mine uses a submerged sensor platform that releases a torpedo when a hostile contact is detected. The three major torpedoes in the Navy inventory are the Mark 48 heavyweight torpedo, the Mark 46 lightweight and the Mark 50 advanced lightweight.
The MK-46 torpedo is designed to attack high performance submarines, and is presently identified as the NATO standard. The MK-46 torpedo is designed to be launched from surface combatant torpedo tubes, ASROC missiles and fixed and rotary wing aircraft. In 1989, a major upgrade program began to enhance the performance of the MK-46 Mod 5 in shallow water. Weapons incorporating these improvements are identified as Mod 5A and Mod 5A(S). The MK-46 Mod 5 torpedo is the backbone of the Navy's lightweight ASW torpedo inventory and is expected to remain in service until the year 2015. The MK 46 originated with the RETORC I (Research Torpedo Configuration I) program conducted by the US Naval Undersea Center (NUC) at Pasadena, CA.
Mark 46 was the Navy's first ASW torpedo to utilize a solid-rocket-fueled, hot-gas propulsion system. At four horsepower per pound of engine weight, the Mark 46 torpedo was capable of overtaking the most elusive submarine targets known at the time. It was the first ASW torpedo capable of launch by fixed wing aircraft at speeds up to 400 knots. Perhaps almost as significant as the weapon development itself was the development process. Official press releases announcing the completion of the Mark 46 program cited as the key element of its success the Navy's concept of industrial partnership. Combined NOTS and contractor teams were instrumental in this program, showing the way for the future SSC San Diego-industry partnerships.
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