Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mine Sonar for Small Combatants

TrailBlazer combines wideband transmission, high directivity, and an advanced operator interface to provide superior detection capability against mines and other threats to
shallow-water operations
An somewhat aged press release (so take it as such) from General Dynamics Canada:
General Dynamics Canada today announced the release of TrailBlazer, a high-frequency, high-resolution sonar system specifically designed for mine and obstacle avoidance (MOAS) on patrol vessels, corvettes, frigates and destroyers operating in littoral waters. TrailBlazer combines wideband transmissions, high directivity and an advanced operator interface to provide superior detection capability against mines and other threats to shallow-water operations.

“With 250,000 sea mines in the inventories of over 50 navies worldwide, mines represent an ever-increasing threat to coastal and waterway security, especially in littoral waters,” said David Ibbetson, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Canada. “TrailBlazer’s power, range and resolution make it a very effective solution against such underwater littoral mine threats.”

Trailblazer operator unit
The product is a result of a co-development effort between General Dynamics Canada and Marport. Marport is a leading developer of advanced sonar technology for commercial and military applications. TrailBlazer combines Marport’s highly-flexible Software-Defined Sonar® transceiver with General Dynamics’ open architecture, digital signal processing suite and graphical user interfaces.

“TrailBlazer delivers the best of both worlds: on the hardware side, customers get one platform for many different applications, which lowers cost, and allows the device to be field upgradeable,” said Karl Kenny, President and CEO of Marport. “While on the software side, customers get a reconfigurable architecture that enables extremely complex applications.”

The TrailBlazer sonar detects surface, moored and seabed mines and provides high resolution real-time 3-D forward-looking sonar capability for safe navigation. The high directivity achieved through the narrow horizontal receive beams and variable horizontal transmission sector make the TrailBlazer sonar well-suited for use in mine and obstacle avoidance in shallow water with highly variable topography.
From the Marport press release:
Karl Kenny, Marport’s President and CEO said, "Maritime mines have caused major damage to naval forces, slowed or stopped commercial shipping and forced the alteration of strategic and tactical plans. The threat posed by these mines is increasing. Advanced mine obstacle avoidance sonars, such as TrailBlazer, can be very effective solutions against such underwater threats."

USS Samuel B. Roberts mine damage (1988)
Underwater mines have sunk or damaged more U.S. Navy ships than any other means of attack since the Korean War. Of the 18 U.S. Navy ships seriously damaged in operations since the Korean War, mines were responsible for 14 of these incidents. Between 1988 and 1991, three warships hit mines. Aggregate damage to the vessels exceeded $120 million, while the cost for the three maritime mines was approximately $13,000.

Foreign adversaries have learned from such asymmetrical success and as a result the current maritime mine threat is rapidly growing in scope and technological sophistication. A wide array of modern mine countermeasures systems are now being developed to enhance the capabilities of allied forces. A combination of innovative technologies, platforms, sensors, and training is key to the naval forces’ ability to achieve and maintain a robust countermine capability. As such, the mine countermeasures market is regarded as a "domain in growth” and is experiencing a high level of interest and activity. Some analysts have estimated that the worldwide market for mine countermeasures sensors is worth $400+ million per year.

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