Upgrading the Spearfish

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has awarded BAE Systems a £270 million ($424 million) contract to upgrade the Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo for the Royal Navy’s submarines. Following the completion of the design phase, existing torpedoes will be upgraded by BAE Systems at its Broad Oak facility in Portsmouth to the new design with initial deliveries in 2020 continuing until 2024, said BAE Systems’ representatives. Key subcontractors for the Spearfish Upgrade programme include MBDA TDW (responsible for an Insensitive Munitions warhead), Atlas Elektronik UK (fibre-optic guidance link and signal processing in the digital homing head), GE Intelligent Platforms (processing boards), and Altran (safety electronic unit).

Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Mod 1
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Mod 1

The upgrade, known as Spearfish Mod 1 extends the life of the torpedo, improves safety through the introduction of an Insensitive Munitions warhead and by utilizing a single fuel propulsion system that will offer cost and safety benefits over the current dual-fuel (using Otto fuel II and HAP, Hydroxyl Ammonium Perchlorate) system and provides more capable data links between the weapon system and the launching vessel (replacement of the current copper/cadmium wire guidance link with a fibre-optic system). This results in capability improvements for the Royal Navy as well as significant reduction in through-life operating costs.

The anti-submarine and anti-surface Spearfish Mod 0 torpedoes are currently deployed the BAE Systems designed and built Trafalgar and Vanguard submarines, as well as the Astute Class submarines. Spearfish can be used in defensive and offensive situations and its advanced design delivers maximum warhead effectiveness at high speed with outstanding maneuverability, low radiated noise, advanced homing and sophisticated tactical intelligence.

The torpedo can operate autonomously from the time of launch and is capable of variable speeds across the entire performance envelope. Its high power density bespoke engine allows it to attain exceptional sprint speed in the terminal stage of an attack. The result is an underwater weapon that provides decisive advantage against the full range of submarine and surface threats in all operational environments. Extensive in-water testing will demonstrate consistently high performance and outstanding reliability.

Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Tail
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Tail

John Hudson, Managing Director for BAE Systems’ UK Maritime Sector, said: «Upgrading the Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Mod 0 will provide sophisticated advances for the Royal Navy with increased operational advantage in the underwater domain». He continued: «As well as sustaining and creating jobs in the Solent region, the contract allows the opportunity to work on one of the most exciting development programmes in the country, underpinning BAE Systems’ position at the forefront of underwater systems development over the last 40 years».

The contract also ensures the sustainment of the UK’s torpedo manufacturing capability at BAE Systems’ Broad Oak facility in Portsmouth through to the mid-2020s, and underpins plans to maintain Spearfish in Royal Navy service beyond 2050.


Length:                                              5 m

Weight:                                             <2.000 tonnes

Speed:                                                70 mph/61 Knots/113 km/h

Materials:                                        Aluminium and Titanium