WASHINGTON: After a congressional budget cut forced a calendar day, Northrop Grumman says he expects a Navy solicitation for a new torpedo to come later this year.
David Portner, senior underwater weapons program manager at Northrop Grumman, told Breaking Defense in an interview last week that he expects a request for proposals for prototypes on the weapon from compact rapid attack either released in late August or early September.
The RFPP was originally scheduled for January 2021, but a reduction in the 2021 appropriations bill has forced the Navy to delay. Lawmakers reduced the associated account by about $ 12 million, citing “competition from compact rapid attack weapons.”
The Navy has a pre-existing contract vehicle, established by the Undersea Technology Innovation Consortium, which is made up of dozens of companies ranging from small businesses to defense leaders. Only members of this consortium will be allowed to compete for the contract.
The competition will mark the Navy’s first new torpedo in more than two decades, and comes as part of a sustained push to pay much more attention to underwater threats posed by China and Russia.
Northrop, which presents its very light torpedo as an entry for the competition, is the only major company to have announced its intention to win the contract. As well as being about a third the weight of most torpedoes, Portner said the strength of the VLWT lies in its modular design that separates the weapon into four compartments.
“You don’t have to rewrite the software every time you upgrade the capacity and say, the sensor, or the warhead, or the powerhouse, or the control system in detail,” he said. The company or the Navy can “make improvements without having to perform extensive testing on the whole weapon due to the modularity of the hardware and software.”
While the compact rapid attack weapon will be an offensive capability, the technology was originally designed to be defensive – marketed as the ‘anti-torpedo torpedo – and has been installed aboard several aircraft carriers. . Penn State, which has played a major role in the development of technology since its inception, and the Navy eventually began to look for ways to give the torpedo multiple sets of missions.
The Navy in 2018 finally canceled this program and has since removed the system from its aircraft carrier fleet. But Portner said if the service wanted to use VLWT as a defensive capability, much of it would be using different software.
“Frankly, I think it wouldn’t be a stretch if you could do both simultaneously, but it would be a third package,” he added.
A spokesperson for Naval Sea Systems Command did not respond to questions about the upcoming competition. (CHECK WITH JUSTIN BEFORE POSTING IF NAVSEA HAS ANSWERED.)