Swordfish Hunting submarines from the air

Despite ultra-modern technology, it’s still very difficult to find a submarine that’s hiding. However, the probability of detection will be markedly increased by employing a maritime patrol aircraft, MPA. With speed, reach and persistence, combined with the latest on-board sensors, such platforms will always make life uncomfortable for even the most experienced of submarine captains.

The number of operational submarines around the world is in its hundreds, estimated to be close to 600. Furthermore, trends and analysis point towards that this number will continue to grow.

Submarines come in vastly different sizes, have various propulsion systems and operate in a number of diverse ocean environments fulfilling a range of mission types. However one thing remains common, they are extremely stealthy and will do anything to avoid being detected.

Over the years technology has ensured that modern boats have reduced acoustic signatures whilst being able to carry increased weapon payloads. The development of air independent propulsion, AIP, has also allowed the previously endurance-limited diesel electric submarines, to patrol submerged for weeks at a time. However submarines never have it all their own way and can easily go from being the hunter to being the hunted.

Quite a challenge

Successful anti-submarine warfare, ASW, depends on a mix of smarter sensor and weapon technology, training and experience. Prosecuting submarines from the air includes locating, tracking and identification of such targets. 

“Anti-submarine warfare will always be a complex challenge. Searching for a dynamic target under the surface that you can’t physically see is a difficult task,” says Gary Shand, working with solutions for anti-submarine warfare at Saab. “Factor in variable oceanographic conditions, which alter the submarine’s sound propagation path and the ocean’s own ambient noise and the job gets even tougher. However things like improved small target detection radar modes, multi-static sonobuoys* and better situation awareness via a C4 system and acoustics processor mean greater detection ranges and ultimately a higher possibility of detection.

Solutions for staying one step ahead of the submarine

Saab’s multi-role Swordfish MPA, available on the Bombardier Global 6000 platform, hosts one of the world’s most sophisticated airborne acoustics processor. Interfaced within Saab’s C4 system, the operator is able to monitor up to 64 sonobuoys at any given time. High degrees of measured automation and situational awareness ensures the right information reaches the operator at the right time, contributing to faster decision-making and greater mission output. Being a company that manufactures modern AIP submarines, torpedoes and other underwater vehicles, Saab understands ASW and ensures a relevant MPA with room to grow over time.

*A sonabouy is a relatively small sensor device that is dropped from an aircraft or ship conducting anti-submarine warfare or underwater acoustic research.