Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is not only a capability. It’s a very special skill with knowledge and experience built up over decades. These skills were almost lost, almost forgotten about – due to the Post-Cold War draw down of submarines, and the focus on land campaigns. For a period during the mid-late 2000’s it seemed that the maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) was a dying capability. Fast forward almost a decade and things couldn’t be more different

Today, we observe the rapid and sustained proliferation of submarine technology around the world.  The introduction of a new generation of more capable nuclear submarines, combined with the highly capable air-independent submarines, and we see that the MPA has overcome its reluctance to take the spotlight and evolved into a true multi-mission aircraft and an essential capability for any nation with important maritime security interests.

Overcoming the Challenge

Searching for a dynamic target under the surface that you can’t physically see is a challenging task. Variable oceanographic conditions and the ocean’s own ambient noise makes the job even tougher. Success depends upon a mix of smart sensors, weapon technology, training and experience. Prosecuting submarines from the air includes locating, tracking, identification and sometimes interception. This is all done in wide area environments, at short notice, and with the purpose to hold the threat at bay. Overcoming this challenge rests upon the provision of modern intuitive sensors, smart training systems, data fusion, agile and long endurance platforms, and integrated mission management systems. These combinations mean that while always a challenge, an airborne ASW capability is now more attainable than ever before.

Achieving More with Less

Today’s modern technology has brought things like improved small target detection radar modes, multi-static sonobuoys and better situation awareness via modern C4 systems. Improved acoustics processors mean greater detection ranges, reduced susceptibility to non-target noise and ultimately a higher possibility of detection. Significant size and weight reductions has made it possible to install these systems in a much smaller and more efficient aircraft platform than legacy MPA.

Saab’s multi-role Swordfish MPA, on the Bombardier Global 6000 platform, hosts one of the world’s most sophisticated airborne acoustics processors. Interfaced within Saab’s C4 system, and Track Data Fusion Engine (TDFE), means a ‘generation gap’ capability has been provided. The cat and mouse game in ASW will continue, but with Swordfish the advantage returns to the MPA.