In addition to torpedoes and land-attack Tomahawk missiles, submarine
armament includes mines. During the Cold War, U.S. submarines also carried
several weapons no longer in service: Harpoon and Tomahawk anti-ship missiles,
and Subroc (submarine rocket) anti-submarine missiles.
Launched underwater, a Subroc anti-submarine nuclear missile breaks
the surface. U.S. fast attacks carried Subrocs from the mid-1960s
through the 1980s. Courtesy U.S. Naval Institute
Rocket-propelled Anti-Submarine Nuclear Depth Charge Subrocs were
intended for targets within sonar but beyond torpedo range. Launched from
a standard torpedo tube, the solid-fuel rocket carried a 5-Kiloton nuclear
depth charge to a distance of 35 miles (56 km). Although hitting a submarine-sized
target at that distance posed a challenge, a nuclear explosion underwater
would render pinpoint accuracy moot.
Since the mid-1980s, the Mark 67 submarine-launched mobile mine, a converted
torpedo, allows submarines to plant minefields from a safe distance offshore.
picture to enlarge.
The Harpoon remains the most widely deployed of all Western anti-ship
missiles, though the submarine-launched version, which entered service
in 1981, has recently been withdrawn. The submarine Harpoon was 15 feet
(4.6 m) long, 13.5 inches (32.4 cm) in diameter, and weighed 1,530 pounds
(695 kg) with a 500-pound (227-kg) high-explosive warhead. Early versions
had a range of 60 miles (100 km), later improved to 80 miles (130 km).
Courtesy U.S. Naval Institute
picture to enlarge.
The Harpoon missile was fired from a submarine's torpedo tube in an unpowered,
buoyant capsule that rose to the surface, then broke apart as the missile's
rocket motor ignited. At flying speed, the booster rocket fell away and
a turbojet engine sustained flight to the target at a speed of 570 miles
(960 km) per hour. Inertial guidance kept the missile on course most of
the way, with active radar to home in on its target.