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Sonar systems

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For surface ship applications Ultra has developed a comprehensive, fully-integrated sonar system, comprising both on-board sonars such as hull-mounted and towed arrays. This modular system fuses data from own-ship and off-board sensors to build a complete underwater tactical picture delivering a bi-static sonar capability.


Sonar systems capabilities & products

Transducers & hydrophones
Transducers & hydrophones Image

Ultra has developed specialised design techniques and high-quality fabrication processes for broadband single crystal transducers, which has led to it becoming the US Navy’s preferred source for this capability. Additional offerings include the custom design and innovative use of flextensional, tonpilz, segmented rings, striped rings, bender, and more conventional ceramic rings, plates, discs and cylinders. Ultra concentrates on solving the unique challenges of deep-ocean, high-pressure applications, associated with submarine and deep-submergence vehicles.

Hull mounted sonar
Hull mounted sonar Image

Ultra’s hull-mounted sonar (HMS) is a combined active/passive array, with dual-frequency transmit flexibility. This HMS can be operated in omni-directional mode, or in sector search and employs a range of FM and CW waveforms to optimise the probability of detection and avoid clutter. It has a heavy weather mode to increase ensonification during high sea states and a close contact mode for detection and tracking of close targets. Ultra’s HMS also incorporates mine avoidance capabilities. It can transmit in a wide bandwidth to avoid mutual interference from other ships, enabling increased freedom of manoeuvre during multi-ship operations.

Forward-looking and side-scan sonars
Forward-looking and side-scan sonars Image

Ultra has developed a versatile sonar architecture, which allows the company to offer a scalable series of forward- and side-looking sonar array solutions for submarines. Basic modules can be tailored into customer-defined arrays covering specific frequencies to support specific tasks, such as navigation (including supporting swimmer delivery vehicle operations), mapping, harbour surveillance and mine detection.

Side-scan arrays provide a high-resolution, synthetic aperture capability for detailed sea-bed mapping, while forward arrays fill the coverage gap ahead of submarines. Ultra’s forward-looking sonar can also be employed for ice and sea-bed mapping and is geo-referenced so that it will overlay on existing charts.

Variable-depth sonar
Variable-depth sonar Image

Ultra’s new generation of variable-depth sonar (VDS) is a single in-line active-transmit and passive-receive array. In its full specification it can include an active horizontal projector array, a towed low-frequency source, a flexible, towed torpedo acoustic countermeasure body and a directional receive array. Ultra’s fully-modular VDS marks a step change in technology and capability, away from the constraints of traditional towed sonars. It needs only a single, lightweight winch, which can be operated by two personnel. Additionally, the low weight and footprint of the VDS allows it to be fitted to vessels not specifically designed for ASW operations.

The VDS nested receive array is populated with quad receive hydrophones, allowing left/right and target above/below ambiguities to be resolved in real-time.

Sonar and sensor systems
Sonar and sensor systems Image

Ultra has extensive experience with unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). This ranges from being prime contractor for a Royal Navy mine disposal system, to providing specialist mine countermeasure arrays for the surface mine countermeasure UUV sonar, as part of the US Navy’s littoral combat system mission module. The Group also has extensive capabilities in the specialised synthetic aperture sonar (SAS) field. Using high-resolution SAS, Ultra provides high-speed coverage for mine detection and oceanographic survey. Featuring co-located high-resolution swath bathymetry and side-scan imagery, the system can be hull-mounted, towed or packaged for autonomous and remotely-operated vehicles, such as UUVs.

Ultra’s forward-look sonar complements the SAS, by dramatically increasing coverage rates. It has further stand-alone applications in obstacle avoidance and mine detection.

Integrated Sonar System
Integrated Sonar System Image

For surface ship applications Ultra has developed a comprehensive, fully Integrated Sonar System (ISS), comprising both hull-mounted and towed arrays. It is a modular system, built on a common multi-sensor processor, within an open architecture ‘system of systems’. It fuses data from own-ship and off-board sensors to build a complete underwater tactical picture and delivers a bi-static sonar capability from hull-mounted and towed array sonars. To maximise detection and localisation of underwater threats, the system further facilitates inter-operability with sensors on third-party co-operating platforms, including sonobuoy processing.

Ultra’s ISS is a single sonar with multiple sensors. It can operate at multiple frequencies and has bi- and multistatic functionality to increase the probability and range of detection, classification and localisation of both submarines and torpedoes.

Traditional sonar installations typically treat each sonar as a separate, independent system, linked via a network, to a combat system. Ultra’s ISS draws together the information from each acoustic sensor into single sonar system with multiple sensors. ISS therefore includes sensor information from active sources and passive arrays, whether on-board or off-board, and so captures many more detection opportunities, increasing the probability of detection through integration gain.

Ultra has taken an innovative approach in displaying the output from ISS. The aim is to minimise the training burden and workload of operators, whilst maximising their ability to utilise the full capability of the system to detect contacts.

In ISS, the transmitters and receivers can be physically separated but operate as a single system in a geographically dispersed network. The data from all sensors is integrated and is used to generate a single graphical display. ISS can also integrate track data from the Combat System. This enables management of the ASW tracks, automatic Target Motion Analysis, and track calculation and generation. All the integrated information is displayed on intuitive, interactive, geographically orientated displays. The operators have a number of tools, including the option to analyse the energy map and to simply switch on various geo-spatial overlays and multiple filters, to aid them in rapidly identifying and resolving contacts and potential underwater threats.