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How Sonar Systems Keep Ships and Submarines Safe: Detecting Mines and Tracking Stealthy Submarines


In the vast expanse of the world’s oceans, ships and submarines navigate through challenging waters, facing numerous hazards ranging from underwater mines to stealthy enemy submarines. To mitigate these dangers and ensure maritime safety, advanced sonar systems have become indispensable tools for naval forces worldwide. Sonar, short for Sound Navigation and Ranging, is a technology that employs sound waves to detect and track underwater objects. In this article, we will explore how sonar systems play a crucial role in keeping ships and submarines safe, focusing on their ability to detect mines and track elusive submarines.


Understanding Sonar Technology

Sonar technology is based on the principle of emitting sound waves into the water and then analyzing the echoes that bounce back after striking an object. Sonar is a technique that uses sound waves to detect and locate objects underwater. The word “SONAR” is an acronym for “SOund Navigation And Ranging,” which describes its main functions.

In a sonar system, an acoustic signal is transmitted into the water, and the echo of the signal bouncing off an object is detected and analyzed to determine the location, size, and shape of the object. This process allows the system to determine the object’s distance, size, and even its speed and direction of movement.

The simplest sonar devices send out a sound pulse from a transducer, and then precisely measure the time it takes for the sound pulses to be reflected back to the transducer. The distance to an object can be calculated using this time difference and the speed of sound in the water (approximately 1,500 meters per second). More sophisticated sonar systems can provide additional direction and range information.

Sonar systems can be broadly categorized into two types: active and passive.

  1. Active Sonar: Active sonar systems emit pulses of sound waves into the water and listen for the echoes. By measuring the time it takes for the sound waves to return, the system can calculate the distance to the object. Active sonar offers real-time information and is commonly used for detecting submarines and mines.
  2. Passive Sonar: Passive sonar systems, on the other hand, are more discreet as they only listen to sounds in the water without emitting any signals. By detecting and analyzing acoustic signatures, such as propeller noises or other underwater disturbances, passive sonar can identify potential threats without revealing the presence of the listening vessel.


Sonars are used in a wide range of applications, including military, commercial, scientific, and recreational purposes. Sonar was developed during World War I as an aid in finding both submarines and icebergs. Major improvements were made on this technology during World War II, and eventually scientists adapted the highly sensitive equipment for use in oceanographic research.


Civilian uses of sonar include determination of water depth, mapping the ocean floor, obstacle detection, locating various objects in the ocean, determining the characteristics of ocean bottom, and even fish finding.


One of the important industries that is growing in demand and has excellent use of SONAR is fishing. Sound waves travel differently than water because the bladder of fish is filled with air and has high density compared to seawater. The process used to measure the depth of water beneath boats and ships is echo sounding; it is a type of active sonar. It is the traveling of a sound wave directly to the sea bed.


Military Applications

For military, Sonars are the eyes and ears of ships or submarines in water used to detect, locate and identify objects in water. They are used for underwater navigation, especially by submarines and surveillance.  Sonar systems can also be used to realign inertial navigation systems by identifying known ocean floor features.


SONARs are also used to locate or hide the explosive mines. SONARs are even used for underwater communication. The use of sonar is not only limited to the navy; helicopters and aircraft are also equipped with a special kind of sonar which can identify submarines from the air. SONARs are the only thing over which authorities depend for the surveillance and security of their seas and oceans.


Detecting Underwater Mines

One of the critical roles of sonar systems is the detection of underwater mines. Mines pose a significant threat to naval operations as they can inflict substantial damage to ships and submarines. Traditional sweeping methods are still in use, but modern sonar technology has greatly enhanced the efficiency and safety of mine detection.

Active sonar systems with high-resolution imaging capabilities can scan the seabed and identify potential mine-like objects. By analyzing the shape, size, and acoustic properties of the objects, sonar operators can distinguish between harmless debris and actual mines. This capability significantly reduces the risk of accidental mine detonation during mine-clearing operations.

Moreover, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with specialized sonar systems are increasingly employed for mine detection missions. These AUVs can navigate autonomously, cover large areas, and identify potential threats efficiently, minimizing the involvement of human divers in dangerous mine-clearing tasks.

Tracking Stealthy Submarines

The threat of stealthy submarines is a constant concern for naval forces worldwide. Modern submarines are designed to operate silently, making them difficult to detect using traditional means. However, advanced sonar technology has significantly improved submarine tracking capabilities.

Passive sonar plays a crucial role in detecting submarines, especially those attempting to remain undetected. By listening for subtle sounds emitted by the submarine’s machinery or other underwater activities, passive sonar operators can identify the presence and movement of stealthy submarines without revealing their own location.

Active sonar, though it can potentially alert the submarine to the presence of the detecting vessel, is still used in certain scenarios. It can be employed to confirm the presence of a submarine detected passively or to provide a more precise location and track the submarine’s movements.


Sonar System technology

Sonar system consists of underwater transducers, front-end signal conditioning units, signal processors, and displays. Sonar transducers transmit acoustic power and pick up the echo returns or merely listen to the underwater sounds, process the signal and provide information about targets on the display units. The information gathered by the sonar is fed to the Fire Control Systems to compute other target parameters like speed, course, and range.


To measure the distance from the source, the total time taken from transmission to reception is measured, as the speed of sound is known, comparing both could get us the exact distance. To measure bearing, many sophisticated tools and apparatus are used. These tools could capture very minute and delicate details like modern hydrophones.


For energy calculation, the received sound is processed through numerous signal processors; for modern SONARs, all the process is done by software and computer tools. The speed of an object is measured by SONAR using Doppler’s Effect. Doppler’s Effect measures the change in wavelength and wave frequency while the wave source and its observer are in relative motion.

For in depth understanding on SONAR  technology and applications please visit:           Dive into Sonar Technology: An Overview of Principles and Applications

Sonars types

Sonar for naval applications broadly falls into two categories: active and passive.


Active Sonar

Active sonar emits pulses of sound waves that travel through the water and processes the received target echo to estimate the range, bearing, and Doppler of the target.


Active SONAR comprises a sound projector (Transmitter) and a receiver. Active Sonar projects a sound and waits for the reflection of it. This projected sound is produced by electro transducers and amplifiers. The reflected sound is then again received by the transducer. Tonpilz transducers are majorly used for Active Transducers; sometimes, their design is altered to achieve optimum performance widening bandwidth. It is not necessary to always use the sound from transducers. Occasionally, sound from external means is preferred, like chemical explosions or sound from shotguns or airguns. Transducers can determine the distance, direction, orientation, and range of an object.


Passive Sonar

Unlike active sonar, passive sonar does not emit its own signal, which is an advantage for military vessels that do not want to be found or for scientific missions that concentrate on quietly “listening” to the ocean. Rather, it only detects sound waves or noise coming towards it.


They only receive signals from boats, ships, submarines, dolphins, or whales. They are unable to transmit their own pulses. Passive SONARs are usually used for Military and Navy Missions as they don’t want to be noticed but would like to know who else is present in their oceans. Passive sonar cannot measure the range of an object unless it is used in conjunction with other passive listening devices. Multiple passive sonar devices may allow for triangulation of a sound source. Passive Radars are used with coordination of other passive SONARs and passive devices to calculate different parameters like range, direction, etc


Passive sonar involves processing the sound signal generated by the target for estimating the bearing and target characteristics through spectrum analysis. As the principal undersea sensing technology for submarines, passive sonar is fundamental to all submarine operations,


One of the most common modern naval applications of sonar technology is in minehunting operations. Modern mine countermeasure (MCM) sonar systems need to have the capability to locate small objects at a range of depths.


Continuous active sonar (CAS)

Existing sonar systems are commonly deployed at a low duty cycle, i.e. a short transmit signal is used followed by a long listening time. As a result, the target is only illuminated during a short time resulting in only one detection opportunity per ping. When a sonar system is capable of recording meaningful data during its transmission, one may consider increasing the duty cycle by transmitting long or continuous transmit signals. This increases the illumination time of the target and thus provides more detection opportunities. This is of special interest for manoeuvring targets with an aspect-dependent target strength. As a result of the increased target illumination, it is expected that continuous sonar will improve the probability of detection, and also the tracking performance.


Sonar System Considerations

SONAR may use two types of sound waves depending upon their use, InfraSonics and UltraSonics. The term infrasonic and ultrasonic is used for sound waves alone rather than electromagnetic or any other kind of wave, and both differ based on their frequency. Both Ultra and Infra Sonics and inaudible to human hearing. Infrasonic are below the human hearing limit and have a frequency of less than 20Hz. Infrasonic includes the eruption of volcanoes and Earthquakes. Ultrasonic is above the human hearing limit, and they have a frequency of 20k Hz.


However, Infrasonic is not preferred in the Sonar technique, especially in active SONAR, because infrasonic are not able to move in the water. Also, their wavelengths are very long, due to which they can’t capture too much energy in their SOFAR channels. But both are very useful as infrasonic can travel more distance, and ultrasonic provide more resolution.


An operating frequency of the ultrasonic sensor is one of the major concerns, high ultrasonic frequency like 100 kHz and above gives more accurate distance measurement than lower frequency; on the other hand, high frequency is more attenuated than low frequency in the same environment. This means that high ultrasonic frequency works in a short range with high accuracy while lower ultrasonic frequency can work in longer distance but less correctness. Navies are increasingly opting for active low-frequency sonar systems that are capable of tracking, classifying and locating threats in any environment.


The performance of a sonar system is strongly influenced by the ocean environment, which is highly unpredictable, thereby making the development of a sonar system a challenging task. Continued ocean studies for better understanding of the ocean are being pursued and better acoustic propagation models are being developed for accurate estimation of predicted ranges


Improvements in sonar performance are driven by the increasing need for naval forces to operate in the harsh acoustic environment of littoral waters, and by the emergence of new generations of near-silent submarines. This shift in operating conditions calls for modular acoustic systems with very high levels of performance in order to provide submarines with the capabilities they need to perform their missions effectively and safely.


Yet another sonar improvement being investigated would apply to shallow waters that are often noisy. By studying those waters at different times of year and understanding how sound ricochets through them, improvements can be made in how an actual signal of a specific vessel might be better separated from the noise.


Responding to this requirement, Thales has developed the highly successful CAPTAS family of variable-depth sonars, which are available in two-ring and four-ring configurations and instantly resolve left-right ambiguity to deliver a decisive advantage in torpedo detection. These towed systems can also be operated in conjunction with hull-mounted or airborne sonars for combined operations in multistatic mode.


ASW relies on separating tiny submarine signals from background ocean noise, primarily by using active and passive acoustic sensing (sonar). However, the range of signals may grow as sensor resolution, processing power and machine autonomy reach the necessary thresholds to reliably separate other, ‘quieter’ kinds of signal. As Bryan Clark notes, ‘While the physics behind most [non-acoustic detection] techniques has been known for decades, they have not been exploitable until very recently because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine.’ However, he adds there’s now ‘the capability to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time’


The major area where modern sonars differ involves the use of adaptive array processing whereby one usually needs to localize a weak signal in the presence of strong interference in a nonstationary environment.


Recent Breakthroughs in SONAR systems

There have been a number of recent breakthroughs in sonar systems. One breakthrough is the development of synthetic aperture sonar (SAS), which uses a computer to create a high-resolution image of an object from multiple sonar signals. SAS is being used for a variety of applications, including underwater mapping, search and rescue, and marine archaeology.

Another breakthrough is the development of low-frequency sonar, which can penetrate deeper into the water than traditional sonar. Low-frequency sonar is being used for a variety of applications, including oil and gas exploration, and military surveillance.

Finally, there has been a breakthrough in the development of 3D sonar, which can create a three-dimensional image of an object. 3D sonar is being used for a variety of applications, including underwater mapping, search and rescue, and marine archaeology.

These are just a few of the recent breakthroughs in sonar systems. There are many other exciting developments happening in the field of sonar, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds.

Here is a more detailed explanation of some of the recent breakthroughs in sonar systems:

Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS)

Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) is a powerful imaging technique that combines echoes from multiple pings to construct a virtual array of hydrophones for recording underwater sound. It provides high-resolution images and promises to solve the problem of covering a large area in a short time with sufficient resolution to detect and classify small, low-signature bottom mines. SAS technology is also useful in other underwater imaging applications.

SAS is a type of sonar that uses a computer to create a high-resolution image of an object from multiple sonar signals. SAS is different from traditional sonar, which uses a single sonar signal to create a two-dimensional image of an object. SAS can create a more detailed image of an object because it uses multiple sonar signals to create a three-dimensional image.

SAS is being used for a variety of applications, including underwater mapping, search and rescue, and marine archaeology. Underwater mapping is the process of creating a map of the underwater environment. SAS is used for underwater mapping because it is able to create a detailed image of the underwater environment. Search and rescue is the process of finding and rescuing people who are lost or in danger. SAS is used for search and rescue because it is able to create a detailed image of the underwater environment, which can help rescuers to find people who are lost or in danger. Marine archaeology is the study of human activity in the underwater environment. SAS is used for marine archaeology because it is able to create a detailed image of the underwater environment, which can help archaeologists to find and study human artifacts that are located underwater.

Low-Frequency Sonar

Low-frequency sonar is a type of sonar that uses sound waves with a lower frequency than traditional sonar. Low-frequency sonar is different from traditional sonar because it is able to penetrate deeper into the water than traditional sonar. Low-frequency sonar is able to penetrate deeper into the water because the sound waves used by low-frequency sonar are longer than the sound waves used by traditional sonar. Longer sound waves are able to penetrate deeper into the water because they are less likely to be absorbed by the water.

Low-frequency sonar is being used for a variety of applications, including oil and gas exploration, and military surveillance. Oil and gas exploration is the process of finding and extracting oil and gas from the Earth. Low-frequency sonar is used for oil and gas exploration because it is able to penetrate deeper into the water than traditional sonar, which allows oil and gas companies to find oil and gas deposits that are located further offshore. Military surveillance is the process of monitoring the activities of enemy forces. Low-frequency sonar is used for military surveillance because it is able to penetrate deeper into the water than traditional sonar, which allows military forces to monitor the activities of enemy forces that are located further offshore.

3D Sonar

3D sonar is a type of sonar that can create a three-dimensional image of an object. 3D sonar is different from traditional sonar, which can only create a two-dimensional image of an object. 3D sonar is able to create a three-dimensional image of an object because it uses multiple sonar signals to create a three-dimensional image.

3D sonar is being used for a variety of applications, including underwater mapping, search and rescue, and marine archaeology. Underwater mapping is the process of creating a map of the underwater environment. 3D sonar is used for underwater mapping because it is able to create a detailed image of the underwater environment. Search and rescue is the process of finding and rescuing people who are lost or in danger. 3D sonar is used for search and rescue because it is able to create a detailed image of the underwater environment, which can help rescuers to find people who are lost or in danger. Marine archaeology is the study of human activity in the underwater environment. 3D sonar is used for marine archaeology because it is able to create a detailed image of the underwater environment, which can help archaeologists to find and study human artifacts that are located underwater.

Bistatic sonar

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),  has commissioned BAE Systems to build a Bistatic Sonar  that seeks to combine the advantages of active and passive sonar detection to give US submarines a comparative edge over increasingly capable Russian and Chinese vessels.


Submarines have traditionally relied on passive sonar – which simply listens to sounds to try to locate adversary submarines and surface ships. This is less effective than active sonar — which gives a more precise location but is likely to give away the location of the subarmine.


DARPA’s MOCCA seeks to enable manned Navy submarines to use active sonar pings from nearby UUVs to detect and track enemy submarines at long ranges without giving away their presence to potentially hostile vessels. The objective is to achieve significant standoff detection and tracking range by using an active sonar projector deployed offboard a submarine and onboard a UUV.  Additionally the new system  shall give submarines the advantages of active sonar without compromising their stealth.


Low-frequency sonar, with lengthy receiver arrays that are physically separate from the emitter, is also showing promise for long-range active detection. Aided by the sophisticated signals-processing capabilities of  modern computing, it is showing the potential to increase detection ranges against certain types of objects in at least some circumstances by up to an order of magnitude or so. The unclassified literature on the subject describes its capabilities in regard to finding fish, not enemy submarines. But advocates envision finding targets of interest 100 kilometers away or further.


MIT researchers describe their system, “Our fish-sensing sonar requires two instruments—one to transmit sound waves and one to receive their echoes. The source of the sound waves is a string of what are essentially loudspeakers, which hang vertically below the first ship. The speaker array sends out short bursts of sound that travel in all directions. These acoustic waves can go hundreds or even thousands of kilometers. ”


“The sound waves we send out reflect or scatter off the objects they encounter, and a long line of hydrophones (underwater microphones), towed horizontally behind the second ship, pick up these echoes. Careful processing of the received signals allows us to figure out which direction the echoes are coming from and how long the sound waves are taking to make the round trip. With that information, we can form a pretty good picture of what the ocean contains up to about 100 km away.”


Multistatic Sonar

A multistatic sonar system is composed by a combination of sonar sensors (either active or passive) placed at different locations. As the type of platforms and their numbers are variable, configurations are multiple: a multistatic sonar can include an active sonar (a hull-mounted or towed source in a frigate), a passive array towed by another ship or an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), an array of sonobuoys and another array of moored hydrophones, becoming a real sensor network.


There are several advantages of the multistatic over the monostatic solution: excellent triangulation of the target position and its tracking, increased covertness of the receiving platform(s), extended echo range (or rather flexible echo range by optimally positioning the transmitter and receiver position), speed denial through ping diversity, multiple-angle observations and other tactical advantages.


Some of the advantages reported for adopting multistatics compared with a field of sonars operated monostatically, the same field operated multistatically may  give longer detection ranges; increase the number of detection opportunities per ping; allow higher ping-repetition rates; complicate the tactical situation for the submarine. Where more than one receiver makes a detection simultaneously (or nearly so),
allow improved performance in localisation, classification and tracking. Provide a tactically significant application for passive sonobuoys that would otherwise be of only marginally utility.


Towed arrays and variable depth sonars, together with hull-mounted sonar

Arrays of hydrophones have been part of Navy sonar systems for over fifty years now. They are used both passively and actively and now are quite sophisticated. These arrays were used in fixed configuration such as the SOSUS system and towed arrays deployed from surface ships and submarines.


The UMS 4110 hull-mounted sonar for large surface ships combines passive, anti-torpedo and obstacle-avoidance modes. For smaller vessels, the Kingklip hull-mounted sonar offers an excellent balance between performance and space requirements.


A special kind of SONAR is used by ships to overcome the problem of flow noise; they are known as towed SONAR. Torpedoes are also equipped with active and passive SONARs to guide them directly and accurately to the target.


Towed Arrays have been common place amongst the major navies for many decades and are a key sensor in a naval vessel’s capability in the detection, tracking and classification of other vessels. They provide numerous advantages over hull mounted sonars such as variable
depth, lower frequency beamforming, greater detection ranges, and reduction in the effect of own ships noise. These advantages are mainly due to the length of a Towed Array’s acoustic aperture being longer than the towing vessel and positioned at the end of a long tow cable. The large aperture possible with large number of sensors assembled at relatively larger /2, promises better range. Towed arrays are one of the well sought out technologies meant for getting better immunity from own ship noise because of towing the array far behind the towing ship.


Traditional Towed Arrays are large oil filled Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or Polyurethane (PU) hoses which can exceed 600m in length and measure between 30mm and 90mm in diameter. Contained within the hose are hydrophones and Non-Acoustic Sensors (NAS) to
provide acoustic, heading and temperature sensing. The weight and volume of traditional Towed Arrays requires large manned vessels to tow an array along with bulky handling systems, which tends to lead to bespoke ship design. This has previously limited Towed Array
operations to vessels such as Frigates and conventional Submarines, which are costly assets to purchase and operate, particularly for the required duration associated with ASW deployments.


Towed array combines a host of technologies, viz., packaging large number of sensors into a proper deployable casing, deployment from a moving platform, and digitisation and telemetry of acoustic and non-acoustic sensor data


The towed arrays and variable depth sonars, together with hull-mounted sonar, are the main elements comprising naval surface ship sonar fits today. Dunk bodies housing transducers and associated electronics are dipped from helicopters for detection of sub-surface targets. These requirements have posed new challenges in sonar technology development related to winches and towed bodies. Development and characterisation of exotic materials for sonar systems in various areas like composite materials, nanomaterials, baffles, encapsulants, etc., are important for improved reliability and enhanced life of transducers and interconnect materials.


To offset the adverse effects on detection by the bathymetric profile of the ocean and self-noise of the platform, the deployment mechanisms of sonar transducers have undergone changes to maximise the detection range. Though the hull-mounted and bow mounted transducers are the most common approaches, the variable depth towed array sonars also help in detection of targets and torpedoes below the surface-sound channel.


Seabed arrays are off-board passive sonars, which can be deployed on the seabed for monitoring strategic locations at sea on a continuous basis to assess the threats from submarines and submersibles A seabed system with capability to detect multiple targets around 360 without any left/right ambiguity and end-fire anomaly, has been developed and proven for performance. Multiple-arrays deployed with appropriate spatial separation will facilitate the passive range estimation of the target too. The system consists of multiple linear hydrophone arrays with a data acquisition system The data can be transferred to a processing station at the coast.


ARRAY System for Supercavitating Hydrofoils

Under a concept being explored by the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island would focus on the physics of the water around mobile sonar sensors. The system uses a cavitator to change the flow of water near the sensors, reducing their exposure to noise and thus improving their sensitivity to an actual target signal.


A sonar system includes a forward looking array which is embedded in a cavitator for generating a gaseous cavity which minimizes hydrodynamic noise resulting from turbulent pressure fluctuations. A marine vessel incorporating the sonar system includes a hull, a hydrofoil suspended beneath the hull by a strut, and a cavitator for generating a laminar flow over the hydrofoil and for creating a cavity for eliminating turbulent flow contact. The cavitator is located at a leading edge area of the hydrofoil. The sonar array is embedded into the cavitator.

Dolphin-inspired sonar

Another innovation that is in the very early stages of development is twin inverted pulse sonar (TWIPS). Inspired by dolphins’ still-unexplained ability to track prey through bubble clouds that scramble modern sonar systems, researchers at Southampton University in the UK developed TWIPS to penetrate bubbles, which could potentially increase sonar reliability in littoral waters.


Using twinned pairs of sound pulses, TWIPS can potentially enhance the acoustic scatter of a hidden object while minimising the clutter caused by surrounding bubbles. In experiments, TWIPS has outperformed standard sonar when detecting a small steel disc in bubbly water.


In an interview with fishnewseu.com, research lead Professor Timothy Leighton explained the future applications of the technology. “Cold War sonar was developed mainly for use in deep water where bubbles are not much of a problem,” he said. “But many of today’s applications involve shallow waters. Better detection and classification of targets in bubbly waters are key goals of shallow-water sonar.”


Integrated solutions

Thales develops sonar suites based on open, interoperable architectures to accommodate future capability and minimise cost of ownership. These solutions incorporate high-performance acoustic sensors, integrated processing electronics and advanced user interfaces.


By combining subsystems such as bow-mounted sonar, flank array sonar, obstacle avoidance sonar, intercept sonar and passive towed-array sonar, Thales builds comprehensive, cohesive and integrated solutions that provide submarines with all-round situational awareness together with the ability to detect, locate and classify all types of threats at short, medium and long range across a broad spectrum of frequencies.


Sonar System Market worth 3.72 Billion USD by 2022

The SONAR system market size is estimated to be USD 5.79 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 6.8 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 1.8% from 2023 to 2029. SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) systems are used to detect objects underwater using sound waves. The increasing use of these systems in military and defense as well as in transportation ships and carriers used in trading will favor the growth of the overall market in the coming years.


One of the major factors driving the growth of the SONAR system market is the increasing demand for underwater security and surveillance systems. SONAR systems are widely used in naval operations to detect and track submarines, as well as in the offshore oil and gas industry for underwater pipeline inspection and maintenance. Additionally, SONAR systems are also used in the fishing industry to locate schools of fish.


Another factor driving the growth of the SONAR system market is the increasing demand for marine navigation systems. With the growing popularity of recreational boating, the demand for SONAR-based navigation systems has increased significantly. These systems provide real-time information about water depth, underwater obstructions, and other navigational hazards, allowing boaters to navigate safely and effectively.


The growth of this market can be attributed to the rise in naval shipbuilding, which leads to increase in demand for sonar systems. In addition, the rise in demand for sonar systems for various UUVs is driving the sonar system market.


The sound navigation and ranging (SONAR) system market is segmented by type (passive SONAR and active SONAR), application (defense and civil and commercial), and geography (APAC, North America, Europe, South America, and MEA).


Most of the world’s navies operate ASW sonars primarily on frigates and destroyers. This means that frigates and destroyers will continue to see multiple sonar installations (hull, variable depth and towed array) on the same hull. The hull-mounted sonar remains the centrepiece of future surface ship sonars, making up over 60% of all projected new system procurements forecasted for the next two decades. Variable depth sonars, usually smaller and lighter than towed array systems, are therefore able to be fitted on a wider array of ships. This help explains why 61% 12% 27% almost 30 percent of future sonar procurements are VDS. Towed arrays, being heavier and typically found on larger surface combatants, make up a little more than 10% of the future surface ship sonar market.


Based on installation, the UUV segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The rise in the usage of UUVs in applications such as hydrographic survey, seabed mapping, military surveillance, and mine hunting has led to the increase in demand for sonar systems in UUVs.


Regional Analysis

The Asia Pacific sonar system market is projected to grow at the highest CAGR, 40% of the growth will originate from the APAC region.
Factors such as enhancement of undersea capabilities in countries, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, will significantly drive sound navigation and ranging system market growth in this region over the forecast period. China, the Russian Federation, and Japan are the key markets for sound navigation and ranging systems in APAC. Market growth in this region will be faster than the growth of the market in other regions.


Major players in the sonar system market are  ASELSAN AS, ATLAS ELECTRONIK GmbH (Germany), Furuno Electric Co. Ltd., Kongsberg Gruppen ASA(Norway) , L3Harris Technologies Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon Technologies Corp., Thales Group, thyssenkrupp AG, and Ultra Electronics Holdings Plc(U K). Key players in global Defense & Security Side Scan Sonar market include: Klein Marine Systems; EdgeTech;Kongsberg Maritime; Marine Sonic; Imagenex Technology;JW Fishers;Syqwest;DeepVision;C-MAX; and Hi-Target


Industry News

Coda Octopus Group has launched an artificial intelligence-based Automatic Object Detection (AOD) software product series that allows users to automatically detect and recognize distinct subsea objects. The initial product in the AOD series is the Survey Engine Automatic Object Detection Package (SEADP), which uses AI techniques to enable geophysicists to automatically accomplish the previously manual and costly task of identifying and reporting on boulders within seabed sites. The SEADP has been successfully trialed with significant customers, who reported significant productivity gains, reduced costs, and faster turnaround times for subsea operations. The AOD product series will be further developed to include detection and classification of man-made objects and mine-like objects for defense and military customers.

Researchers at Haifa University’s Underwater Acoustics and Navigation lab in Israel have developed an advanced sonar system that is capable of differentiating between aquatic life and divers. The system, funded by NATO and developed in cooperation with universities in Spain and Canada, is small, mobile, and able to identify threats in enemy territory. The breakthrough technology has been tested in a variety of scenarios, including distinguishing divers from fish, sharks, and turtles, and has potential applications in naval and special forces operations.

AIRBORNE SYSTEMS: Active dipping sonar technology

Airborne Systems offer active dipping sonar technology, which is a useful tool for detecting and tracking hostile submarines. ASW helicopters equipped with active dipping sonar systems transmit sound pulses through the water column and listen for echoes to indicate a target’s location.

Manufacturers are developing systems that operate at lower frequencies, providing greater area coverage and improved performance against submarines. L-3 Ocean Systems and Thales are the main providers of dipping sonar systems. L-3’s HELRAS DS-100 system operates at a lower frequency of 1.38 kHz, while Thales’ FLASH system operates at 3-5 kHz. FLASH has a smaller receive transducer array diameter and a higher operating frequency, allowing it to offer improved search coverage and detection/classification capabilities. Both solutions can be fully integrated with the tactical system or operated as standalone systems.


Sonar Integration and Future Advancements

To maximize effectiveness, modern naval vessels are equipped with integrated sonar suites that combine both active and passive sonar capabilities. These suites also incorporate advanced signal processing algorithms to filter out ambient noise and enhance the detection of relevant targets. Additionally, the integration of sonar data with other sensor inputs, such as radar and electronic warfare systems, further improves situational awareness and threat assessment.

Looking to the future, research in sonar technology continues to advance rapidly. Developments in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and signal processing are expected to lead to even more sophisticated sonar systems with improved detection capabilities, reduced false alarms, and enhanced underwater surveillance.


Sonar systems have revolutionized naval operations by providing vital capabilities in detecting underwater mines and tracking stealthy submarines. These technologies play an essential role in keeping ships and submarines safe, ensuring the security of maritime operations, and safeguarding the lives of naval personnel. As research and development in sonar technology continue to progress, we can expect even greater advancements in maritime security, making the world’s oceans safer for all.


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