RAF Poseidon Force to gain UK-made Sting Ray torpedoes

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) will integrate the British-made Sting Ray acoustic homing lightweight torpedo onto the RAF’s fleet of P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), with the munition set to augment the type’s current US-made Mk 54 Lightweight Torpedo.

The Sting Ray – which uses the two-word name because a children’s TV programme owns the copyright on the name ‘Stingray’ – was formerly employed by the RAF’s Nimrod MPA fleet and is used by a variety of Royal Navy vessels and helicopters. Developed to counter deep diving titanium double-hulled Soviet submarines in blue water engagements, the torpedo is fractionally lighter and shorter than the Mk 54, although both share the same NATO-standard 324mm diameter.

One of the RAF's nine-strong P-8A Poseidon MRA1 fleet (ZP809/09) poses for an image with the Sting Ray torpedo in the Atlantic Building at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland.
One of the RAF's nine-strong P-8A Poseidon MRA1 fleet (ZP809/09) poses for an image with the Sting Ray torpedo in the Atlantic Building at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland. MOD Crown Copyright/Cpl Sian Stephens

Sting Ray is nearly twice as fast as its US-made counterpart, with a longer endurance and superior homing abilities, as well as a highly accurate navigation system. This allows Sting Ray to detect, classify and attack targets autonomously. The munition is fitted with a directed-energy shaped charge warhead and an electric propulsion system with a pump jet propulsor and a magnesium/silver-chloride seawater battery. The Mk 54 torpedo currently in use is something of a hybrid, combining the 1960s-era homing head technology of the Mk 50 with the back-end of a Mk 46 Otto fuel-driven torpedo – which is said to be a “very poor propulsion unit for a modern torpedo”, resulting in a weapon that is slow and that has limited range.

A programme to integrate the Sting Ray Mod 1 onto the Poseidon MRA1 fleet is now underway. The new Sting Ray Mod 1 enjoys enhanced performance, underpinned by new acoustic and tactical software, building on extensive experience with the Mod 0 variant. Sting Ray will give the RAF Poseidon fleet a potent sovereign torpedo capability, providing the type with greater flexibility, low through-life costs and no need for intrusive maintenance throughout its service life.