According to a recent report from the U.S. Navy, anti-submarine warfare experts are initiating a program to develop the capability to perform wide-area airborne searches. The purpose of this technology will be to detect enemy submarines using deployed networks of bistatic sonobuoys. An incredible piece of sea-based radio technology. Here are a few things you might want to know about how they relate to undersea warfare.
What is a Sonobuoy?
The term itself Is a portmanteau of the words ‘sonar’ and ‘buoy’. They are essentially a canister, about three feet long and 5 inches in diameter. The device is ejected from an aircraft or ship into the open ocean. Upon impact, a floating buoy is deployed to the surface of the water. On top of the buoy is a radio transmitter that relays signals back to the aircraft. Additionally, the canister deploys a sensor deep under the water to receive various types of sonar signals.
How Does the Navy Use Them?
The capability provided by the above-mentioned project will deploy networks of these buoys that work in an array of different sensors. Some are pinging sonar devices, which send out ‘ping’ or sound wave, and then use the echo of that ‘ping’ to chart out underwater territory. Others, are passive sensors, meaning that they simply listen for noise under the waves.
According to the Navy’s sources-sought notice, published just this summer, they are looking for companies with the manufacturing resources and expertise to build sonobuoys with a few special requirements. For one, they need to have GPS navigation, a diversity of frequencies that they can transmit or receive, and performance enhancements for detecting submarines with less work.
Additionally, they need to be prototyped quickly, and should have the capabilities to handle a ramp-up in production in order to deliver around 15,000 sonobuoys per year for the Navy’s MAC program.
What is the MAC Program?
The Multi-Static Active Coherent Program (MAC, for short) was created to conduct wide-are search, screening, and clearance to detect enemy seacraft. In particular, the program is composed of three airborne systems: maritime aircraft, a source sonobuoy, a receive sonobuoy, and the processing software used by technicians on the aircraft.
In this arrangement, after being deployed, the source buoy will produce loud sonar pings underwater, while the receiving buoy picks up the return echo of these pings, and transmits the signal back to the aircraft above from which the canisters were deployed.
The MAC program was largely created to replace the Navy’s old program, the Improved Extended Echo Ranging system. This system is improved due to the fact that it will enable several sonar pings, can receive and transmit in optimal waveforms, and even offers various durations of the sound ping.