Naval WarfareMilitary Ordnance

US Approves MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes Sales to Belgium and Germany

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MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes (LWT)
MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes (LWT)

The U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Belgium of twenty-nine (29) All Up Round MK 54 LWT Mod 0 torpedoes and Government of Germany of sixty-four (64) MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight torpedoes. This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a NATO Ally which is an important force for political and economic stability in Europe. The principal contractor will be Raytheon Integrated Defense System, Portsmouth, RI. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

The Government of Belgium requests to buy twenty-nine (29) All Up Round MK 54 LWT Mod 0. Also included are two (2) Fleet Exercise Section conversion kits, torpedo support equipment, training and publications, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The Belgian Navy is phasing out its inventory of MK 46 torpedoes. The MK 54 will give them the ability to engage submarines from its fleet of NH-90 helicopters and the new generation of Multi-Mission Frigates. Belgium will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces. The total estimated program cost is $33.3 million.

MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo
Sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross load MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo into the torpedo tubes on the ship’s aft missile deck. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cory Rose)

The Government of Germany has requested to buy sixty-four (64) MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight torpedoes and ten (10) MK 54 Conversion Kits to be used with fleet exercise sections as MK 54 Exercise torpedoes. Also included are torpedo containers; Recoverable Exercise Torpedoes (REXTORP) with containers; Fleet Exercise Section (FES) and fuel tanks to be used with MK 54 conversion kits (procured as MDE); air launch accessories for fixed wing; torpedo spare parts; training, publications, support and test equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated value is $130 million.

The Mark 54 Lightweight Torpedo (formerly known as Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo, or LHT) is a standard 12.75 inch (324 mm) anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedo used by the United States Navy. The Mark 54 was co-developed by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and the U.S. Navy under the U.S. Navy’s Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo program in response to perceived problems with the extant Mark 50 and Mark 46 torpedoes. The Mk 50, having been developed to counter very high performance nuclear submarines, was seen as too expensive to use against relatively slow conventional submarines. The older Mk 46, designed for open-ocean use, performed poorly in the littoral areas, where the Navy envisioned itself likely to operate in the future.

MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo
A Mark 54 Mod 0 torpedo is launched from the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80). (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert)

The MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoe was created by combining the homing portion of the Mk 50 and the warhead and propulsion sections of the Mk 46, improved for better performance in shallow water, and with the addition of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology to further reduce costs. It shares much of the software and computer hardware of the Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) heavy torpedo, based around a custom PowerPC 603e chip. It also utilizes the proven MK 46 warhead and propulsion subsystems. The result is a low-cost weapon that meets all performance requirements for littoral warfare. In fact, navies with MK 46 models in their inventory can easily convert them into MK 54 torpedoes using the low-cost MK 54 Upgrade Kit.

The Mark 54 is carried by the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. In June 2011, it was reported that India will get 32 Mk 54 All-Up-Round Lightweight Torpedoes. In January 2018 it was announced that the P-8 Poseidon aircraft to be operated by the Royal Air Force will carry the Mk 54. In 2018 the acquisition of MK 54 torpedo’s by the Royal Netherlands Navy via the Foreign Military Sales process. In early 2018 the U.S. State Department approved the sale of Mark 54 torpedoes to the Mexican Navy, who will deploy them from their new Sigma-class design frigates. In May 2019 Canada requested 425 Mk54 lightweight torpedo conversion kits, plus ancillary training, exercise and maintenance spare parts.

A Boeing P-8A Poseidon Maritime patrol aircraft dropping a MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes (LWT)
A Boeing P-8A Poseidon Maritime patrol aircraft dropping a MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes (Photo: Raytheon Technologies)

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