Intensifying submarine activity in the waters around Europe has led the US Navy to request millions of additional dollars to buy submarine-detecting sonobuoys, according to an Omnibus funding measure the Pentagon requested from Congress early July 2018.
The Navy has asked Congress to allot $20 million to buy more air-dropped sonobuoys that can detect submarines and transmit data back to surface ships and aircraft.
Supplies of such buoys have fallen critically short after an “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017 [which] resulted in unexpected high expenditure rate of all type/model/series,” the Omnibus says, according to Breaking Defense .
US and NATO officials have repeatedly warned about increased Russian submarine activity in the seas around Europe over the past several years.
US warships have tracked Russian subs in the eastern Mediterranean, where British subs have also reportedly tangled with their Russian counterparts. Russian submarines have transited the area to reach the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet base and to support the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, where a years-long civil war has been a ” test bed ” for new Russian submarine capabilities.
A crew member unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, April 10, 2014.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
Interest in submarine and anti-submarine warfare is growing around the world — one 2015 study predicted global demand for sonobuoys would grow by 40% through 2020, with most of the interest in passive sonobuoys that can listen for submarines without being detected.
Other sonobuoys on the market include active sonobuoys, which send pings through the water to produce echoes from targets, and special-purpose sonobuoys that collect other data for radar and intelligence analysts.
Late 2017, US Naval Air Systems Command announced a 9.8 million order for up to 166,500 sonobuoys of various types for anti-submarine warfare from defense firm Erapsco. In January 2018, the firm received another contract for .6 million for engineering support for the service’s active sonobuoys.
Sonobuoys are air-launched , mostly from MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft by aircrews trained to array them into patterns designed to detect and track passing submarines.
Participating countries sail in the Black Sea during Sea Breeze 2018, July 13, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams)
Russia’s sub fleet is currently far smaller than its Soviet predecessor, but the boats it has added are increasingly sophisticated. The US Navy and its European partners can still field more advanced subs, but they have seen their fleets shrink and their anti-submarine capabilities wane in the years since the Cold War.
Both sides have devoted more attention to anti-submarine warfare.
NATO navies and their partner forces have carried out similar exercises, including Sea Breeze 2018 in the Black Sea, during which a Turkish submarine played the role of the adversary force, and Dynamic Mongoose 2018 , which brought subs, ships, and aircraft from eight countries to the North Atlantic off the coast of Norway between June and July 2018 to work on their “warfighting skills in all three dimensions of Anti-Submarine-Warfare in a multinational and multi-threat environment,” NATO said in a release.
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