Very Light Weight Torpedo (VLWT)
Very Light Weight Torpedo (VLWT)

US Navy Unveils Very Light Weight Torpedo (VLWT) at Sea Air Space 2021

Northrop Grumman was showcasing a prototype of the Very Light Weight Torpedo (VLWT) for the very first time in public, during the Sea Air Space 2021 exposition near Washington DC. 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 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 program.

Northrop Grumman Very Light Weight Torpedo (VLWT)
Northrop Grumman The Mark 18 electric torpedo (photo courtesy U.S. Navy)

Applying its engineering and manufacturing expertise, Northrop Grumman improved upon the VLWT baseline design to replace high-cost components and drive overall affordability, reproducibility and reliability. The successful testing of the torpedo nose on the first try is a testament to Northrop Grumman’s design-for-affordability approach. Those altered sections were built and tested using PSU-ARL’s own test equipment for confidence. Northrop Grumman assembled the prototype VLWT using a Stored Chemical Energy Propulsion System (SCEPS) manufactured by teammate Barber-Nichols, Inc., (BNI) of Denver, Colorado. Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing plan would span the country by building components in California, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, West Virginia and Maryland.

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Northrop Grumman Very Light Weight Torpedo (VLWT)
Northrop Grumman’s Very Lightweight Torpedo prototype being prepared next to its Acoustic Test Facility tank in Annapolis, Maryland.

Northrop Grumman‘s torpedo design and production legacy reaches back over 80 years to World War II through its Westinghouse acquisition. In 1943, Westinghouse won the Navy contract to reverse engineer a captured German electric torpedo and in 12 months began producing the MK18 electric torpedo, which turned the tide of the undersea warfare in the Pacific. Northrop Grumman has been at the forefront of torpedo design and production ever since, to include the current MK48 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System (CBASS) heavyweight torpedo and MK50 Lightweight Torpedo. Today, Northrop Grumman is the only company in full rate production of MK54 and MK48 torpedo nose arrays and has delivered over 600 MK54 arrays and over 70 MK48 arrays to the U.S. Navy.

Very Light Weight Torpedo (VLWT)
MK-54 torpedo being launched from an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (photo courtesy U.S. Navy)
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