Tag Archives: Spearfish Mod-1

Final Trials

Submarine HMS Talent (S92) has put the world’s most advanced torpedo through its final trials – including firing the lethal weapon at itself.

Spearfish Mod 1
HMS Talent carries out Spearfish torpedo trials off the west coast of Scotland

The Trafalgar-class boat – whose mission is to hunt and, if necessary, kill hostile submarines – fired the upgraded Spearfish on the ranges near the Isle of Skye to rigorously test it before it enters service.

During the three-day trial, the cutting-edge Spearfish was fired at HMS Talent (S92) three times – and was programmed to safely pass the submarine to ensure there was no risk of the boat torpedoing herself.

The trials provided valuable data in the final stages of the upgraded torpedo’s development ahead of its impending entry into service.

Commander Paul Jamieson, Commanding Officer of HMS Talent (S92), said: «Talent has been the host platform on two occasions for this trial and my team are proud to have had a role in this important programme. The Spearfish upgrade will ensure the submarine service continues to possess a very credible weapon system, capable of dealing with potential future threats».

Captain John Aitken, the Spearfish Programme Director, and a former commanding officer of Talent, said: «This trial marks the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work from the Spearfish team and our partners in industry. The ‘Mod 1’ weapon is at the very cutting edge of torpedo technology and underscores Britain’s position as one of the global leaders in underwater capability. That Talent continues her proud tradition of delivering exactly what is required of her makes this all the more pleasing for me».

Spearfish has been the Royal Navy’s heavyweight torpedo for nearly 30 years and can break the back of frigates, destroyers and similar-sized warships, as well as take out any underwater threats.

The enhanced torpedo features a new warhead, new, safer fuel system, a smarter electronic ‘brain’ and a fibre-optic guidance link with its parent submarine to improve its accuracy and lethality.

The operational version of the weapon will be introduced to all front-line Royal Navy submarines by 2025.

It was the second time Talent, the second oldest boat in the RN’s flotilla, was selected for Spearfish trials, with a Royal Navy, Defence Equipment & Support and BAE team heading aboard.

A dummy run saw the first of four torpedoes launched into a target vessel, before three successful firings pitched Talent against herself, avoiding striking her using ‘geographical depth separation’.

The torpedoes were then recovered and work is now ongoing to study the data from the trial to support decisions made in the next phases of the programme as the torpedo moves towards Initial Operating Capability.


The world’s most advanced torpedo is on the cusp of entering service with the Royal Navy after extensive trials in Scotland.

Navy’s new torpedo on cusp of front-line service after trials in Scotland

The upgraded Spearfish – the principal weapon of the UK’s Submarine Flotilla against enemy ships and submarines – was ‘fired’ repeatedly at frigate HMS Sutherland (F81) as scientists, engineers and sailors study its performance.

Over four days on special ranges near the Kyle of Lochalsh, the improved weapon was put through its paces, testing both software and hardware enhancements – while the Plymouth-based frigate did its utmost to fend off the torpedo’s attacks.

Spearfish has been the Silent Service’s weapon of choice since the early 1990s, though it has never been fired in anger.

The warhead is a good six times more powerful than that carried by the smaller Sting Ray torpedo, fired by ships like Sutherland or launched from Merlin and Wildcat helicopters.

It can break the back of frigates, destroyers and similar-sized warships, and take out any underwater threats.

The Royal Navy is investing £270 m in upgrading Spearfish, fitting a new warhead, new, safer fuel system, an enhanced electronic ‘brain’ and a new fibre-optic guidance link with its parent submarine to improve its accuracy and lethality.

A team of around 100 engineers and experts from BAE Systems in Portsmouth have spent nearly six years working on the improved torpedo, which will be introduced to front-line hunter-killer and nuclear-deterrent submarines over the next three years – and in service into the 2050s.

The latest trials are the fourth involving Sutherland – which is purpose-built to hunt down hostile submarines – to help introduce the new Spearfish into service.

For the latest workout at the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre (BUTEC) – a stretch of water between Skye and the Scottish mainland which is ten kilometres/6.2 miles long, six/3.7 wide, up to 200 metres/656 feet deep and peppered with state-of-the-art sensors – the frigate was assessed to see if she could defeat the new-look Spearfish, using a mix of evasive manoeuvres to evade the torpedo and advanced acoustic counter-measures to lure it away from Sutherland.

Anyone expecting tell-tale submarine wakes streaking through the waters was disappointed as Spearfish was set to ‘run deep’ for safety reasons – so the ‘battle’ was played out on the displays in Sutherland’s operations room, where the shrill sound of whistles announced a torpedo in the water.

«During the trial this week we have put our elite training into action, using a variety of underwater sensors to locate and track the weapon», said 23-year-old Able Seaman Matthew Brown from Perth, one of the underwater warfare specialists who’s been tracking Spearfish. «Having one of the most advanced and capable torpedoes in the world fired at you certainly puts the pressure on».

Weapon Engineer Officer Lieutenant Commander David Tinsley added: «This is not the first time Sutherland has contributed to Spearfish trials, and we’re glad to be supporting a small part of a larger Defence programme which will deliver a world class weapon into Service. A range of military and industrial partners have come together to deliver an efficient trial which in due course will deliver another exciting capability for the Royal Navy».

Following the torpedo trials, Sutherland moved on to join the Americans, Norwegians and Danes on exercise in the Arctic.

A final trial of Spearfish will take place at BUTEC later in 2020 before the weapon is declared operational and begins being delivered to the submarine fleet.

Upgraded Spearfish

A prototype of the next-generation Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo has successfully completed a first in-water trial at the Ministry of Defence operated British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre, on the west coast of Scotland.

Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Production
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Production

The trial is part of a five-year programme to develop an upgrade to the Spearfish Mod-0 Heavyweight Torpedo, which is currently in service with the UK Royal Navy on the Trafalgar, Vanguard and Astute Class submarines, also designed and built by BAE Systems.

The upgrade extends the life of the torpedo and improves safety through the introduction of an «insensitive munitions» warhead together with a single fuel system. The next generation Spearfish will also feature better data links between the weapon system and the launching vessel. This results in capability improvements as well as a reduction in through-life operating costs for the Royal Navy.

The recently completed trial included the launch of a prototype weapon from a chute frame, which demonstrated control in a range of manoeuvres and explored the performance of newly introduced capabilities. Submarine-launched trials are planned to start next year.

Les Gregory, Products & Training Services Director at BAE Systems, said: «This is an important step in demonstrating the enhanced capability of the Spearfish Mod-1 Heavyweight Torpedo, as well as generating the necessary performance data, which will inform the rest of the programme. The success of this trial is testament to the knowledge and experience we have gained over more than 35 years of torpedo development. It is also a reflection of our strong relationship with the customer and our supply chain».

Following the completion of this demonstration phase, existing Mod-0 Heavyweight Torpedoes will be upgraded by BAE Systems based at its Broad Oak facility in Portsmouth to the new mod-1 design with initial deliveries in 2020. Since its award in December 2014, the £270 million upgrade contract has created 30 new roles.

Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo loading
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo loading



Length 16.4 feet/5 m
Weight <4,409 lbs/2,000 kg
Speed 61 knots/70 mph/113 km/h
Materials Aluminium and Titanium
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Stores
Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo Stores


Spearfish Heavyweight Torpedo