Navy to test torpedoes off South Carolina coast

Aviation Ordnancemen move an MK-54 torpedo from a P-8A Poseidon at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

Twelve anti-submarine torpedoes are to be fired from a jet offshore sometime between Feb. 11 and 16, and the Navy is warning boaters and fliers to stay away.

The torpedoes won’t be armed. It’s a Navy training exercise to check on modifications to the weapon or its launch system. They will be fired at “a submerged object,” said John Woodhouse of Naval Undersea Warfare Center public affairs.

The Navy won’t specifically say where or when each torpedo will be shot, but the nearshore boundary of the training range runs from about 57 miles offshore McClellanville southeast to about 86 miles off Savannah, according to latitude and longitude coordinates supplied by the service’s public affairs office.

That’s farther than most anglers or other seafarers would be. Most.

“They shut me down in an area where the fish are biting, that’ll cost me a lot of money,” said Steve Shelley of Pawleys Island, a longline fisherman who goes that far out for tilefish in the winter months when few other catches are allowed.

“They ought to get out to 1,000 fathoms where it won’t bother any fisherman.” A fathom is 6 feet in depth.

The area was picked because the planes will launch from the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Fla., Woodhouse said. Most of the torpedoes are expected to be recovered and brought to Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point in North Carolina.

The tests will include a single P-8A jet bomber, a ship and a helicopter to recover torpedoes. Another airplane and a ship will patrol to keep people clear and to watch for marine animals such as whales, according to a Navy news release. The torpedoes are to be lightweight MK-54s.

Similar exercises are conducted regularly up and down the coast, Woodhouse said. “It’s all about where we can launch participants from and where we can return the torpedoes.”

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