UK defence electronics firm Ultra Electronics is developing a new family of miniature passive sonobuoys that could be eventually deployed from unmanned aerial systems.
The new, 12 inch-long “F” sized sonobuoys use the company’s new multi-static technology, which assesses data from other sonobuoys and other energy in the water to provide an increased probability of detection. The “F” size sonobouys retain the same standard sonobuoy diameter of 4.875 inches, but are two-thirds shorter than the 36 inch-long “A” active sonobuoys used by the US Navy on its P-8 Poseidon and P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and around one-quarter shorter than the standard passive “G” class sonobuoys, which measure 16.5 inches.
The company believes these lighter sonobuoys could pave the way toward the development of a sonobuoy pod that could be fitted to a medium-sized UAV. Company literature shows a pod developed by Northrop Grumman to carry sonobuoys fitted to a Global Hawk platform.
“A UAV would be an ideal platform for creating a sonobuoy field in the water,” said Jonathan Cooke, marketing manager for Ultra’s sonar systems division. “A maritime patrol aircraft crew can spend several hours laying a field, just the sort of dull and dirty work that UAVs were developed for.”
Ultra envisions a pod fitted with 12-36 small sonobuoys. Inside the pod would be a buoy data receiver, processor and datalink system so information from the sonobuoys could be sent back to operators, opening the way for a UAV-based anti-submarine warfare capability.
The company says it is working with a number of UAV producers on the project. The capability could be featured in the planned Unmanned Warrior demonstration, which will be part of the larger NATO multinational Joint Warrior exercise off the Scottish coast in 2016.