Northrop Grumman Very Lightweight Torpedo (VLWT)
Northrop Grumman Very Lightweight Torpedo (VLWT)

Northrop Grumman Very Lightweight Torpedo (VLWT)

Torpedoes are a lifeblood of attacking submarines, as well as for submarines to deploy when engaging with surface ships. Submarines usually fire large, heavy weight torpedoes, which are long range, high power and very stealthy as they travel. Northrop Grumman has successfully manufactured and tested the first industry-built Very Lightweight Torpedo (VLWT) for the U.S. Navy. The prototype torpedo is based on the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory’s (PSU-ARL) design that was distributed to defense industrial manufacturers in 2016.

Northrop Grumman, which independently funded the research and development, will offer the design-for-affordability improvements to this VLWT as Northrop Grumman’s response for the U.S. Navy’s compact rapid attack weapon (CRAW) program. With Defense Systems poised to build a significant portion of the system, along with several other outside partners, this is a true cross-sector and industry collaboration resulting in significant improvements in affordability and manufacturing workflows.

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Northrop Grumman Very Lightweight Torpedo (VLWT)
Northrop Grumman Very Lightweight Torpedo (VLWT)

This torpedo is the first man-portable torpedo built by Northrop Grumman, and smarter than any other torpedo ever produced. If it is placed in the same water as the target, the VLWT will search, detect and engage with more maneuverability and anti-torpedo capability than its larger counterparts. Its small size effectively adds magazine depth to a submarine allowing it to defend itself efficiently from a single threat to an entire swarm. Additionally, its size allows it to be deployed from airplanes or even from a helicopter – making it possible to deploy the VLWT directly above an enemy submarine.

This is a tremendous advantage for the warfighter, making it almost impossible for the submarine to evade a hit. The U.S. Navy in January is expected to release a request for proposals to field its first completely new torpedo since the 1990s. Operators will be able to instantly load software into the weapon, giving it defensive or offensive capabilities shortly before being fired. The compact rapid attack weapon (CRAW) is the offensive version of the torpedo and the countermeasure anti-torpedo (CAT) is the defensive version. The transition design period will take about three years meaning production could begin around 2024.

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