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HA


US NAVY TORPEDOES
by Frederick J Milford

Part Five: Post WW-II Submarine Launched/ Heavyweight Torpedoes

Reproduced with permission from the October 1997 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW,
a quarterly publication of the Naval Submarine League, P.O. Box 1146,
Annandale, VA 2200


While it is not our purpose here to discuss defense economics or
national security policy, it is important to remember that the end of
WW II dramatically changed the requirements, the associated force
structure and the budget of the US Navy. In 1946 the total number of
ships in the US Navy was about one-fifth what it had been in 1945,
there were fewer than half as many destroyers, one fourth as many
submarines and one tenth as many destroyer escorts. Aircraft are more
difficult to count, but there were probably only one-fifth as many
serviceable naval aircraft in 1946 as there were in 1945. Annual
expenditures for the Navy in 1946 were a third of what they had been
in 1945 and fell to one fourth the 1945 level by 1947. Total
obligational authority dropped to one-tenth the 1945 level by 1948.
Torpedo acquisition had to be pursued within this austere environment.

The end of WW II also brought an end to the ambivalence reflected in
the »hold hands with the devil« description of US-USSR relationships
during the war. It was not until 1948 that a formal national security
policy towards the Soviet Union was issued, but for naval planning
and weapons acquisition purposes the hypothetical enemy was the USSR
even in the early post-war years. In 1946 the Soviet Navy consisted
of about 130 ocean going submarines, ten large surface combatants, 68
destroyers, 68 minesweepers and numerous coastal vessels including
small submarines. Whether as a result of astute analysis, or the need
to have a credible mission to survive1, the U.S. submarine force,
given the structure of the Soviet Navy, seized on anti-submarine
warfare as one of its most important missions. This decision had a
profound affect on post-WW II torpedo programs. No torpedo of any
kind without the capability to attack submerged submarines has
entered service with the Fleet since 1945. whereas the only submarine
launched torpedo with that capability that even reached prototype
stage before 1945 was the Mk.33 of which only 30 models were built.
In 1946 the US Navy found itself with huge stocks of a variety of
operational torpedoes and numerous torpedo projects in various stages
of completion. Post war funding could not support all of the
development projects, so they were pruned down to those that could
quickly produce useful interim ASW weapons and those that had major
longer term potential. Subsequent development projects not only
incorporated increasingly sophisticated refinements of concepts that
were originated during WW II, but also introduced entirely new
concepts.

________________________

1 Frank Andrews in »Submarine Development Group Two« (The Submarine
Review, April 1983, p.5) says "In 1946 it was evident that there
would be no budget bucks for submarines unless they could be put to a
meaningful use."

1
Three of the more important new concepts were wire guidance,
discrimination and onboard attack logic. Such refinements greatly
enhanced the effectiveness of torpedoes and were made possible in
large measure by the continued rapid development of electronics in
the post-war era. These and other improvements, however, raised the
unit cost. A modern submarine launched torpedo carries a 1997 price
tag that easily exceeds a million dollars. On the other hand, if one
torpedo destroys a billion dollar enemy SSN, the exchange ratio is
very favorable.

Post-WW II torpedoes fall naturally into two groups, heavy weight
submarine and surface vessel launched torpedoes and light weight air
and surface vessel launched torpedoes2. Interestingly, there have
been no torpedoes developed in the post war years exclusively for
surface ships. All post-WW II surface launched torpedoes have been
adaptations or dual use versions of air or submarine launched
weapons. Accordingly, after a few comments on the continued use of WW
II torpedoes, we consider the development of heavy weight torpedoes
since 1945. Light weight torpedoes will be considered in the next
part of this series.

POST-WAR USE OF WW II TORPEDOES

The straight running steam, electric and Navol torpedoes, Mks.13, 14,
15, 16, 17, 18 and 23, which were operational3 at the end of the war
continued as service weapons. By 1950 only Mks.14, 15 and 16 remained
in service4 and the Mk.15 disappeared as trainable 21" torpedo tubes
were removed from destroyers. Mark 16 (Navol) remained in service
until 1975 and the venerable Mk.14 (steam) was not finally withdrawn
from service until 6 March 19805. The three homing torpedoes that had
entered service during WW-II, Mk.24 (air launched ASW), Mk.27 Mods.0
(submarine launched anti-escort) and Mk.28 (submarine launched
anti-surface vessel) continued in service until they were replaced by
improved weapons, the Mk.28 remaining in service until 1960. Many
torpedo projects were discontinued, in some cases after reaching the
prototype or pre-production stage.

____________________


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