Home Americas Royal Navy’s upgraded Spearfish torpedo enters service after Bahamas test

Royal Navy’s upgraded Spearfish torpedo enters service after Bahamas test

HMS Audacious Spearfish Mod-1 heavyweight torpedo test firing
Royal Navy photo of HMS Audacious during the Spearfish trials in the Bahamas

The Royal Navy has declared its upgraded Spearfish heavyweight torpedo ready for operations after proving its mettle during deep water trials in the Bahamas.

Five of the torpedoes were successfully fired by HMS Audacious, one of the Royal Navy’s Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines, during three days of trials on a special range.

HMS Audacious crossed the Atlantic for the trials after being delivered in April 2020 by BAE Systems. The submarine is the fourth of seven attack submarines being built for the Royal Navy.

The firings at the US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) on Andros Island studied the performance of the weapon at its maximum operating depth and challenged the torpedo’s homing abilities through the introduction of countermeasures.

The trials were the latest in a string of crucial tests on the upgraded heavyweight torpedo since the decision was taken to enhance it in 2010.

The new Spearfish – known as the Mod-1 – features a new warhead, new, safer fuel system, a smarter electronic ‘brain’ and a fiber-optic guidance link with its parent submarine to improve its accuracy and lethality. The service says it has invested around £270 million (approx. US$346.8m) in the upgrades.

These trials took place after initial operating capability was achieved, meaning work can now begin turning existing Spearfish into the improved Mod-1 version for entry into operational service with all Royal Navy submarines by 2025.

Spearfish has been the Silent Service’s weapon of choice for taking out foes on and below the waves for nearly 30 years, capable of crippling frigates, destroyers and large warships, as well as hostile submarines.

Spearfish torpedo
Photo: Royal Navy

“Whilst we remain focused on the ultimate aim of providing the Full Spearfish Mod-1 Operational Capability, the team should be congratulated on achieving this important milestone; a critical step in the process of maintaining the effectiveness of the Royal Navy’s submarine-launched heavyweight torpedo for years to come,” Commodore Bob Anstey RN, the senior officer responsible for the Programme and Deputy Director Submarines, said.

Even after initial capability is declared, important data still has to be collected on the torpedo’s performance in a range of environments.

That is why Audacious and the Spearfish team headed to AUTEC, the principal proving ground of sub-surface warfare on the world’s oceans.

The ranges off Andros Island – south-west of Nassau – are centred on a 6,000ft deep natural phenomenon, the Tongue of the Ocean, a huge deep-water bowl carved out of coral reef, which resembles the Rolling Stones’ famous tongue logo.

To this natural wonder is added humanity’s ingenuity: the tongue is crammed with sensors and hydrophones to record reams of data on how well a submarine or torpedo is performing.