October 4, 2016

Submarine Sonar Upgrades - Virginias, Collins and Shortfins

Australia's Collins class and future Shortfin class subs are likely to benefit from the US system of software-hardware sonar upgrades. This is within the broader sensor and data technology of the AN/BYG-1 combat system. It was announced on September 30, 2016 that Lockheed Martin would integrate the combat system into the Shortfin.
-  Bringing up US-Australian sonar systems follows some Anonymous comments on Russian MGK sonar systems. There seems to be no rigorous way of comparing US and Russian sonar claims.

Virginias, Collins and future Shortfins are relatively large submarines with large, higher power, bow sonars to detect targets at a longer distance.

 "The AN/BYG-1 modernization program develops commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software and hardware upgrades to integrate improved tactical and weapons control capabilities for multiple submarine classes. The program integrates the tactical control, weapons control, and tactical network subsystems. The AN/BYG-1 is installed on the U.S. Navy's Los Angeles, Seawolf, Virginia and SSGN-class submarines, as well as on the Royal Australian Navy's Collins-class submarines."

Sonar arrays aboard Virginia-class submarines have an "Open System Architecture" (OSA) which enables rapid insertion of new hardware and software as they become available. Hardware upgrades (dubbed Technology Insertions) are usually carried out every four years, while software updates (dubbed Advanced Processor Builds) are carried out every two years. Virginia-class submarines feature several types of sonar arrays.[55]
  • BQQ-10 bow-mounted spherical active/passive sonar array[55][56] (Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array from SSN-784 onwards)

  • A wide aperture lightweight fiber optic sonar array, consisting of three flat panels mounted low along either side of the hull[57]

  • Two high frequency active sonars mounted in the sail and bow. The chin-mounted (below the bow) and sail-mounted high frequency sonars supplement the (spherical/LAB) main sonar array, enabling safer operations in coastal waters, enhancing under-ice navigation, and improving anti-submarine warfare performance.[58][59]

  • Low-Cost Conformal Array (LCCA) high frequency sonar, mounted on both sides of the submarine's sail. Provides coverage above and behind the submarine.[60]
Virginia-class submarines are also equipped with a low frequency towed sonar array and a high frequency towed sonar array.[61]
  • TB-16 or TB-34 fat line tactical towed sonar array[62][63]
  • TB-29 or TB-33 thin line long-range search towed sonar array[62][63]

Presumably the Collins benefits from the same hardware/software update system? The Collins (see right sidebar) utilises a: "Thomson Sintra Scylla bow and distributed sonar arrays, Thales SHORT-TAS towed sonar array and Thales intercept array".



Josh said...


Thought you might like this article concerning the HF sonars in the sail and chin even though it is very old. This concerns trials aboard an older 668 class. I believe the chin mounted sonar also serves as mine avoidance and can take short range fuzzy image quality sonar scans of the sea bed in shallow water.


Also concerning the towed arrays - I was under the impression that both fat line and thin line arrays were low frequency, the difference being the 'wash out speed' at which they become ineffective due to flow noise and also the length of the array with the thin line much longer and more sensitive. The thin line also I believe takes longer to deploy and longer to straighten during a maneuver and so the fat line is generally the 'tactical' towed array while the thin line is presumably more for long range surveillance and intelligence. I could be wrong in these things though; information about these systems is sparse and generally unconfirmed.


Anonymous said...

"I believe the chin mounted sonar also serves as mine avoidance and can take
short range fuzzy image quality sonar scans of the sea bed in shallow water."

According to:


surface ships have a similar sonar upgrade called "Kingfisher", though this
ability is rather limited. Quote:

"The AN/BQS-15 sonar on SSN-688-class submarines is being upgraded (engineering change 17, EC-17) with enhanced CAD algorithms and target-height-above-bottom measurements for the ahead-looking search sonar. The EC-18 variant of the AN/BQS-15A on SSN-688s and the AN/BQQ-10 Phase IV on improved SSN-688s (SSN-688I) will provide precision underwater mapping (PUMA) capability for the ahead-looking sonars, i.e., high-resolution bathymetry, MCM contact maps, precision ground reference navigation, and real-time map data merging and management. Most SSNs are scheduled to have this capability by around 2005. The NSSN (Virginia class) is scheduled to get both a sail array and a chin array with similar bottom-mapping and mine-detection/avoidance capabilities. The chin array is referred to as the advanced mine detection system (AMDS) and is intended to enhance mine detection performance in shallower waters (with a uniquely located, high-frequency, ahead-looking search sonar). All of these submarine sensor improvements are designed to produce MEDAL-compatible mine warfare data for entry into the MEDAL data system.

A system similar to AMDS may ultimately be installed on new-construction surface combatants (e.g., the DD-21) and would represent a marked improvement over existing “Kingfisher” systems (adaptation of SQS-56 and SQS-53 sonars for mine detection). The Kingfisher system has only limited detection capability against bottom mines."

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

The spherical bow sonar of Virginia-class is very effective, but it consumes huge amount of electricity which conventional submarine never supplies.


Peter Coates said...

Thanks S [at 6/10/16 10:43 PM]

Too bad the Collins and future Shortfin don't have the electical power to use the Virginia's bow sonar.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

Here's a bit about the Collins and towed sonars https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collins-class_submarine#Sensors_and_systems :

For the Collins "The main sonar array is a Thomson Sintra Scylla active/passive bow sonar, linked to a passive intercept and ranging array distributed along the flanks of the submarine; three panels on each side.[6][132]

Collins and Farncomb were originally fitted with Thales Karriwarra passive towed sonar arrays, while the other four boats could be fitted with the Karriwarra or Thales' Namara array.[64] These were later replaced across the class with the Thales SHOR-TAS towed passive array, deployed through the horizontal 'pipe' at the stern.""