Mar. 23, 2012 By TOM KINGTON defensenews.com
ROME — Italian torpedo maker WASS plans to unveil a new light torpedo, dubbed Flash Black, which the firm claims will offer enhanced battery life, range and precision. The 12-mile range, 57-mph speed composite material torpedo will be seen for the first time at India’s DefExpo event in New Delhi this month.
WASS, a unit of Finmeccanica, said it started work six months ago on a one-year, 8 million euro ($10.6 million) development program to reach an “initial development” stage.
“We will now show it off, get feedback and could be ready to deliver in 36 months,” a company official said.
The firm wants to price the Flash Black well below its MU90 light torpedo and closer to its A244/S — which has been sold to 16 countries — but with added capabilities. The firm sees its new product competing with Raytheon’s MK54 and aims at 800 to 1,000 sales in 15 years.
The torpedo will feature a lithium polymer battery, derived from mobile phone technology, that can be recharged 100 times, far more than the 10 times permitted by the batteries in most heavy torpedoes.
The longer lasting battery should encourage the use of torpedoes in exercises, a WASS official said. The torpedo will require maintenance every five years.
WASS has introduced a wake-homing capability on the torpedo that can zero in on the wakes of target vessels. It also helps the torpedo take out propellers in order to cripple instead of destroy vessels, such as vessels taken over by pirates. The Flash Black will be deployable from aircraft, surface ships and submarines — manned and unmanned — with wire-guided firing optional.
From aircraft, the torpedo can be dropped from 3,280 feet into 82 feet of water.
The product will be marketed by WASS rather than by the Eurotorp light torpedo joint venture, through which the firm has previously sold light torpedoes. That joint venture, with DCNS, is being phased out.
WASS said the Italian Navy will not be an initial customer for the Flash Black but has given clearance for the product to be exported.
The firm is also launching a new towable sonar called Black Snake, designed to spot incoming torpedoes and small enough to be used on small vessels.