U.S. Navy Submarine First In World Fitted With Silent Caterpillar Drive

U.S. Navy Submarine First In World Fitted With Silent Caterpillar Drive - Merchant Navy Info - News

Submarines have used stealth to dominate the oceans and pose a deceptive but deadly threat, but now U.S. Navy submarines will take stealth to a new level. American submarines are currently equipped with magnetohydrodynamic propulsion systems. Naval News Staff April 1, 2024, America’s submarines will continue to expand its underwater dominance. The U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class submarine is the first submarine to be equipped with a new propulsion method, magnetohydrodynamic propulsion (MHD). This promises the holy grail of naval warfare, making submarines virtually undetectable.

Magnetohydrodynamic propulsion is being developed under his PUMP program at the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and is expected to be reported for the first time in 2023. The flowing water is accelerated by the magnetic field of the superconducting magnet. This is often compared to the crawling of a caterpillar, and the colloquial term caterpillar propulsion” was born. The first boat with the new propulsion is the USS Montana (SSN 794). The Virginia-class attack submarine entered service with the U.S. Navy in June 2022. Although she is still a new boat, she was taken to Groton, Connecticut, for modification.

Quietest Submarine Engine 

It is probably not particularly noticeable as it has no moving mechanical parts. This makes it especially difficult to detect submarines using passive sonar, which listens for sounds from targeted submarines. Sonar operators searching for the USS Montana may hear sounds that are indistinguishable from natural phenomena such as seismic activity. 

Instead of the traditional propeller located at the stern, the new drive is housed entirely in the submarine’s hull. British experts say the only external clue may be the water intake in the ship’s bow. These are similar to torpedo tube caps but larger, approximately the diameter of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. However, it is unusual for these missiles to be mounted horizontally.

It’s Time 

If the test is successful, the new drive can be installed on other submarines. These are expected to include the newly built Virginia-class attack submarines and the future SSN-X class. However, this is unlikely to be installed on a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), as it would likely represent a first-strike capability. There is no reason for nuclear deterrent submarines to be so stealthy if their only purpose is to carry out retaliatory strikes. 

USS Montana is scheduled to conduct sea trials on  Penobscot River, Maine. This would make it even more difficult for the Russian Navy to observe the experiment. Caterpillar drives are still in their early stages. It remains to be seen whether this will be the end of history for the Penobscot River or the beginning of a new chapter. Either way, Montana will remain unseen.

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