Mark 48 torpedo

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For the machine gun, see Mk 48 machine gun.
Mark 48 torpedo
Mk 48 torpedo maintenance 1982.JPEG
Technicians perform maintenance on a Mark 48 torpedo in 1982.
Type Heavyweight torpedo
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service

1971–present (Mod 1)[1] 1988–present (ADCAP)

2008-present Mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System (CBASS)
Used by United States Navy
Brazilian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
Production history
Designer Gould, Inc.[1]
Naval Surface Warfare Center
Designed 1967[1]
Manufacturer Gould/Honeywell (Mod 1)
Hughes Aircraft (ADCAP)
Unit cost $894,000 (USD 1978)[2]
$3,500,000 (ADCAP) (1988)[3]
$3,800,000 (CBASS)[4]
Weight 3,434 lb (1,558 kg) (original), 3,695 lb (1,676 kg) (ADCAP)
Length 19 ft (5.79 m)[5]
Diameter 21 in (533 mm)[5]

Effective firing range 38 km (24 mi; 21 nmi) at 55 kn (63 mph; 102 km/h) or 50 km (31 mi; 27 nmi) at 40 kn (46 mph; 74 km/h) (estimated),[5][6]
officially "greater than 5 miles (4.3 nmi; 8.0 km)"[7]
Warhead high explosive plus unused fuel
Warhead weight 650 lb (295 kg)[5]
proximity fuze

Engine swash-plate piston engine; pump jet
Propellant Otto fuel II
Maximum depth 500 fathoms,[5] 800 m (estimated),[6] officially "greater than 1200 ft"[8]
Speed 55 kn (63 mph; 102 km/h)[5] (estimated)[6]
officially "greater than 28 kn (32 mph; 52 km/h)"[7]
Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System

The Mark 48 and its improved Advanced Capability (ADCAP) variant are American heavyweight submarine-launched torpedoes. They were designed to sink deep-diving nuclear-powered submarines and high-performance surface ships.


The Mk-48 torpedo was designed at the end of the 1960s to keep up with the advances in Soviet submarine technology. Operational since 1972, it replaced the Mk-37 and Mk-14 torpedoes as the principal weapon of U.S. Navy submarines.[3] With the entry into service of the new Soviet Alfa class submarine in 1972, the decision was made to accelerate the ADCAP program, which would bring significant modifications to the torpedo. Tests were run to ensure that the weapon could keep up with the developments and the weapon was modified with improved acoustics and electronics. The new version of the weapon, also known as Mk-48 Mod 4, was extensively tested and production started in 1985, with entry into service in 1988. From then on, various upgrades have been added to the torpedo. As of 2012 Mk-48 Mod 6 was in service; a Mod 7 version was test fired in 2008 in the Rim of Pacific Naval exercises. The inventory of the U.S. Navy is 1,046 Mk-48 torpedoes.[6]


The Mk-48 torpedo is designed to be launched from submarine torpedo tubes. The weapon is carried by all U.S. Navy submarines, including Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines and Seawolf-, Los Angeles-, and Virginia-class attack submarines. It is also used on Canadian, Australian, and Dutch submarines. The Royal Navy elected not to buy the Mark 48, preferring to use the Spearfish instead.

Mk-48 and Mk-48 ADCAP torpedoes can be guided from a submarine by wires attached to the torpedo. They can also use their own active or passive sensors to execute programmed target search, acquisition, and attack procedures. The torpedo is designed to detonate under the keel of a surface ship, breaking the ship's back and destroying its structural integrity. In the event of a miss, it can circle back for another attempt.


The swashplate piston engine is fueled by Otto fuel II, a monopropellant that decomposes into hot gas when ignited, which drives the engine. The thrust is generated by a propulsor assembly.

Sensors and improvements[edit]

The torpedo's seeker has an active electronically steered "pinger" (2D phased array sonar) that helps avoid having to maneuver as it closes with the target. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the torpedo's sensors can monitor surrounding electrical and magnetic fields. This may refer to the electromagnetic coils on the warhead (at least from 1977 to 1981), used to sense the metallic mass of the ship's hull and detonate at the proper stand-off distance.

The torpedo has been the subject of continued improvement over its service lifetime. In the 1990s, a Mod 6 variant of the ADCAP provided much improved noise isolation from the engine, which makes this torpedo more difficult to be detected by a potential target.

The Mk48 Mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System (CBASS) torpedo is optimized for both the deep and littoral waters and has advanced counter-countermeasure capabilities. The MK48 ADCAP Mod 7 (CBASS) torpedo is the result of a Joint Development Program with the Royal Australian Navy and reached Initial Operational Capability in 2006.[8]

On July 25, 2008 a MK 48 Mod 7 CBASS torpedo fired by an Australian Collins-class submarine successfully sank a test target during the Rim of the Pacific 2008 (RIMPAC) exercises.[9][10]

In 2015 the USN announced plans to restart production and seek a more modular design.[11]


Map with Mark 48 operators in blue

Current operators[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jolie, E.W. (15 September 1978). "A Brief History of US Navy Torpedo Development: Torpedo Mine Mk48". Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Polmar, Norman. "The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet: Torpedoes". United States Naval Institute Proceedings, November 1978, p.159.
  3. ^ a b "MK 48". Federation of American Scientists Military Analysis Network. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e f Thomas, Vincent C. The Almanac of Seapower 1987 Navy League of the United States (1987) ISBN 0-9610724-8-2 p.190
  6. ^ a b c d "Mk 48 ADCAP". Jane's Naval Forces News. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  7. ^ a b "Mk 48 Torpedo". Unofficial US Navy site. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  8. ^ a b "US Navy Fact File: Heavyweight Torpedo - Mark 48 ", US Navy, 17 January 2009, Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  9. ^ "Aussie sub sinks US Warship ", SMH, 25 July 2008
  10. ^ "BBC Video: Torpedo test sinks US ship". BBC. July 24, 2008. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  11. ^ Eckstein, Megan (29 October 2015). "Navy Planning Torpedo Restart, Would Be Modular Design With Multiple Payloads". (USNI). Retrieved 29 October 2015. 

External links[edit]