The US Navy has awarded Boeing a US$25.65m (A$37.12m) contract for the first full-rate production lot of the High-Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability Air Launch Accessory (HAAWC ALA) wing kit for the Mk 54 lightweight torpedo (LWT).
Designed to be launched from the weapons bay of a P-8A Poseidon maritime ISR aircraft, the HAAWC ALA comprises a folding wing kit which carries the torpedo after launch and enables it to glide for up to 10 minutes when launched from altitude, before detaching at low altitude and employing the torpedo against a submarine target. The ALA also includes a flight control computer, a GPS-based navigation system, and a power source.
The glide range of up to 60nm allows the P-8A to standoff from the target, with other platforms such as helicopters or uncrewed systems with dipping sonars providing targeting data to the launch aircraft or to the weapon in flight. Previously, the launch aircraft had to release the Mk 54 from an altitude of 100 feet and slower airspeeds closer to the target.
“This is an important milestone because it brings HAAWC one step closer to becoming fully operational and deployed by the Navy,” Boeing program manager, Dewayne Donley said in a company release. “Our solution transforms the MK 54 into a precision glide weapon in GPS-aided and GPS-denied environments. The HAAWC system provides flexibility by allowing the Navy to carry out anti-submarine operations throughout the full flight envelope of the P-8A.”
The HAAWC ALA successfully achieved its Milestone-C production approval in December 2018, and additional testing has been conducted since then. The Pentagon’s Director of test & Evaluation (DOT&E) declared the system as operationally effective in its 2021 report, but added that additional testing of a new operational flight program (OFP) was required to declare it operationally suitable in a cyber-contested environment.
The contract provides for an initial batch of ALA kits and containers for the US Navy and for unspecified international customers, and has provision for engineering studies, testing, and additional production units. With Australia vowing to stay in lockstep with the US Navy on its incremental upgrade program for the P8A, it’s possible the RAAF will also adopt HAAWC for its 15 P-8As.