Anti-submarine Warfare

Contributing to ASW capability with autonomy and automation

The Submarine Threat

Submarines pose a threat to maritime security today, just as they have done since they were first introduced into service. As a potent sea denial capability, submarines pose a significant challenge to military planners, because of the disproportionate response they require from their own forces. Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) is as asset-intensive today, though the escalation in the cost of specialist ASW forces raises challenges around affordability.

In Australia’s region submarines are proliferating. The Indo-Pacific stands out as the region, in which submarines are growing faster than anywhere else in the world. Noting the maxim that ‘quantity is a quality all its own’ increasing numbers of regional submarines, means an increasing challenge when it comes to countering the threat. Against that background, while autonomous platforms and automated systems will not replace traditional ASW assets such as frigates, ASW aircraft and, of course, friendly submarines, they do have the potential to augment existing force elements and complement ASW systems capabilities.

REMUS 100 traials at Buzzards Bay.
UVS Completes Wave Glider Training in Hawaii with Liquid Robotics
BlueZone Completes Wave Glider Training in Hawaii with Liquid Robotics.


Uncrewed Systems

ASW is as much a numbers game as it is anything else. Therefore, uncrewed platforms have a role to play in force generation. By supplementing surveillance assets and complementing traditional platforms, uncrewed systems can increase ASW effectiveness in two fundamental ways: by increasing numbers to generate ‘defence in depth’ and by widening underwater sensor coverage to create a ‘layered defence’.

Defence in depth extends sensor networks to increase the probability of detecting hostile submarines before they can conduct attacks on friendly forces. Layered defence increases the likelihood that hostile submarines are more likely to encounter ASW platforms while trying to prosecute their assigned mission. Combining those concepts contributes significantly to the aim of ASW… to deny the enemy the effective use of its submarines.

In recent times, advances in key technologies such as acoustic sensors, signal and data processing, high speed and high bandwidth communications and AI, have made it possible for Uncrewed Surface Vehicles (USV) and Uncrewed Underwater Vehicles (UUV) to become realistic options to be seriously considered by ASW force structure planners. When appropriately equipped with modern sensors and systems, uncrewed platforms can undertake detection, classification, and localisation (DCL) operations, largely autonomously and with only minimal need for support from highly trained operators. This allows uncrewed platforms to contribute to the majority of ASW missions from ‘detect and track’ to ‘localise and attack’.

Undersea Surveillance

By its very nature, the autonomous USV is equipped with modern acoustic sensors, active and passive acoustic signal processing and track data management systems that are ideal for persistent, high fidelity undersea surveillance. Acting independently or in networked fleets, USVs can operate in defined areas for extended periods, building up an excellent picture of background activity where hostile forces can be detected.

Once hostile platforms are detected, the same USVs can ‘cue’ other assets in response and contribute to the prosecution or neutralisation of the threat. This can be affected over extensive areas in wide-area surveillance missions or focused geographically on operations such as barriers, depending upon the need.

Advance sonar sensor technology such as variable depths sonar (VDS) and towed arrays with modern processing systems, utilise techniques including low frequency active, multi-statics and very low-frequency passive signal processing. When the output from contemporary sensors is combined with capable tracking and track management systems, the USV can effectively contribute to undersea surveillance, with similar capabilities, to dedicated surveillance ships.

REMUS 100 onboard a vessel for trials at Buzzards Bay.
Train as you fight – AUV62-AT is flexible, adaptable and can operate in several different modes.

Innovation in ASW Operator Training

Operator training is critical to underwater warfare. It is fundamental to maintaining proficiency, that operators are continuously trained to detect and classify submarine contacts and command teams in sonar sensor ASW procedures. Autonomous technologies provide viable alternatives for training when submarines are unavailable. Uncrewed Underwater Vehicles (UUV) offer a low-cost and realistic alternative to the use of manned submarines. The UUV can support ASW operator training, onboard sonar and Combat System sea checks. It can include powerful built-in tools for training, planning and evaluation capabilities, which enable it to augment submarines in basic, procedural ASW training.

Contractor-owned Contract-operated

Increasingly, the Navy’s are finding rapid innovation can be enabled by contractor-owned contractor-operated models for deploying, operating, and supporting the uncrewed systems. BlueZone works with a wide range of globally leading manufacturers to support the test and the demonstration of new technologies, under a contractor-owned, contractor-operated model. Extending collaboration between Defence and industry has benefits for both sides. BlueZone Group is well placed to explore a range of options with the defence and other potential industry partners.

Original Equipment Manufacturer Reachback

BlueZone’s association with different OEMs ensures a wide variety of technologies and systems are available to be tailored to the unique requirements of the ASW challenges.

Engineering and Through Life Support

BlueZone’s engineering teams are experienced in the integration of ASW sensor technologies into uncrewed platforms. Integration tasks that are considered can be complex including sensors, payload processing and communications, along with the space and weight considerations of small uncrewed platforms. Rapid integration and modification of systems can be performed in Australia, to meet the local needs, in addition to the unique and challenging environmental conditions from our southern seas to tropical waters.

Complete Through Life Support (TLS) for all technology and systems, are offered by BlueZone, from fully equipped workshops based east coast (Newcastle, NSW) and west coast (Perth, WA). BlueZone supports training in the maintenance and operation of survey systems for the Navy and other customers.