The next mission of the US Navy: Detect invisible submarines from the sky

The next mission of the US Navy: Detect invisible submarines from the sky

Modern invisible submarines do not use stainless steel and are covered with sound absorbing materials.

The US Navy is testing a new radar capsule that can detect invisible submarines. The capsule will be mounted on the service’s new P-8 Poseidon aircraft. The system uses radar to detect otherwise untraceable contrails left by submarines underwater.

The US Navy, in a break from traditional submarine detection, is working to replace sonar and magnetic detection with radar. The AN / APS-154 Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) will detect the invisible contrails left by submarines underwater, hinting that something large is lurking beneath the waves. The AAS will be carried by the P-8 Poseidon aircraft (shown above), which can then attack submarines with air-launched anti-submarine torpedoes.

According to Forbes, the bottom-mounted capsule features advanced electronic scanning radar (AESA). Unlike traditional parabolic antenna radars that use a large and powerful radar module, AESA radars use many smaller modules. These modules can operate collectively on multiple frequencies, which means that they can overcome interference or widen or focus their field of detection, especially against small objects and those invisible to the human eye.

One of these targets is the wake created by a submerged submarine on the surface of the ocean. Submarines create contrails as they displace water in their path, which are barely visible on the surface. Radar like the AAS can detect these contrails in the pattern of regular ocean waves, giving away the location of a submarine.

Once a submarine is detected, a P-8 can launch a light antisubmarine torpedo Mk. 54 to hunt. The Mk. 54, parachuted, will enter the water, turn on its onboard sonar system, and begin searching for the enemy submarine. When the torpedo encounters the sub, it moves to intercept it, detonating a 100-pound warhead against the sub’s hull. 

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