February 24, 2006

Breaking the Sound Barrier -- Underwater


THIS GIVES NEW MEANING TO THE PHRASE, "You'll never even hear them coming."

Torpedoes and the Next Generation of Undersea Weapons

Anti-torpedo torpedoes will provide our future platforms with an additional defense capability. Their primary mission is to destroy incoming torpedo threats that may have gotten through a countermeasure field. Based on technology under development at ONR, a 6.25 inch-diameter self-protection weapon is under study for the defense of surface ships and submarines using supercavitation technology. The Advanced High Speed Underwater Munition (AHSUM) program has already demonstrated the effectiveness of such high-speed underwater bullets. Fired from an underwater gun, these projectiles have successfully broken the speed of sound in water (1,500 meters per second), bringing their future application much closer to reality. [Powerpoint graphics at link.]

Exactly how is this accomplished? It may have something to do with this description: "Using supercavitation techniques, the torpedo becomes an underwater missile… the water near the tip of the projectile – or torpedo – literally vaporizes from the high speed, producing a pocket in which to "fly" the weapon underwater."

More on supercavitation @ Warpdrive Underwater by Stephen Ashley in Scientific American, May, 2001.

Posted by Vanderleun at February 24, 2006 7:41 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

The rumor was that this was what the Kursk was testing when it sank. Easy to see how having one go off in the torpedo room might ruin your whole day.

Posted by: ed in texas at February 24, 2006 10:38 AM

It's not just the super-duper high-speed submarine rockets that present a threat to our fleet. I wrote about the improvements in non-nuclear powered subs soon to be available on the international arms market.

My time aboard an old diesel sub highlighted the advantages enjoyed by 1950s-era pigboats, when used correctly. The admirals in the Pentagon are rightly worried -- or they should be.

Posted by: Mike Lief at February 24, 2006 12:25 PM

I really should hop the link and read before I comment. For what it's worth, there are also stories about attempts to implement similar technology in the air, using microwave emitters in the leading edge of wings, to create a free-plasma layer and reduce drag. Speeds should be hypersonic, but there are heat issues of Space Shuttle magnitude. The indicative humor on this point of those who go such places, i.e. Groom Lake, is that if you saw it go past it wasn't that big of a secret.

Posted by: ed in texas at February 25, 2006 5:09 AM

I remember the SA article. I came up with ideas about submersible craft that could do mach 5 underwater. One could literally fly underwater from Seattle to Vladivostok in a few hours. Overwater flights would become a thing of the past.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at February 25, 2006 5:49 AM

The problem with the concept is steering the missile; apparently the Russians have achieved incredible speeds in a straight-line shot, but they haven't figured out how to maneuver.

Posted by: Mike Lief at February 25, 2006 6:14 AM

What about the whales? Will somebody please think of the whales?

Posted by: warner at February 26, 2006 3:07 PM

Why would you need to worry about maneuvering if nothing you aim it at can move faster?

Posted by: at October 10, 2012 11:06 AM