Submarines and torpedoes are among the most closely-guarded and sensitive topics among navies. True to type, a recent announcement by the Israeli navy about the adoption of a new torpedo came with few details.
But it appears to be an interesting torpedo — more advanced, with state-of-the-art technology. The Kaved will become the Israeli navy’s primary attack torpedo for years.
This article by Robert Beckhusen originally appeared at War is Boring in 2018.
“This is an event that happens once in decades,” an Israeli source told Jane’s. The IDF said in a statement: “The torpedo systems possess advanced capabilities and characteristics, including increased precision and range. The operationalisation of these systems signifies a great advance in the Israeli Navy’s operational capabilities and ability to defend the State of Israel.”
The Kaved appears to be a heavy, fast and long-range torpedo. One feature is what the IDF calls a digital guidance system that will also be easier to upgrade “without changing hardware,” Jane’s source said. While not mentioned explicitly, this is likely a reference to field-programmable gate arrays, probably coupled with the sonar.
These high-performance and tamper-proof FPGAs are integrated circuits that can be reconfigured after manufacturing — i.e. digital circuits. This opens up possibilities to reprogram the torpedo on the fly, and Jane’ssource added that a targeted submarine will have more difficulty escaping.
Essentially, this is a more reactive torpedo, and the reason why could come from that onboard hardware, or even possibly fiber-optic wires that transmit data to the home submarine more efficiently. This latter feature is being developed on the U.S. Navy’s in-development upgrade of the Mark 48 heavyweight torpedo. If the Kaved has the latest tech, it’s likely similar to this incoming Mark 48.
Similarly, the Kaved should be able to operate in a wide variety of environments, including shallow water and at deeper depths. The digital sonar helps make that possible.
The Israeli navy currently possesses five submarines, three Dolphin-class and two Dolphin 2-class attack submarines, with a third Dolphin 2currently under construction. The latter possesses quiet Air-Independent Propulsion systems. These are all German-made boats and are also believed to have cruise-missile capability — with some of those believed to carry nuclear warheads.