BAE developing underwater drones with longer range active sonar

DARPA has awarded BAE Systems a $4.6 million contract for its Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program. The MOCCA program’s goal is to enable submarines to detect other submerged vessels at greater distances, while minimizing the risk of counter-detection.

Active sonar, which sends out a pulse of sound — that loud “PING” you hear in war movies — has a much longer range than passive sonar, which merely listens. But submarines generally rely on passive sensors, because the enemy can home in on active pulses. If the sub can launch an unmanned underwater vehicle with active sonar, though, the UUV can move a safe distance away before it starts pinging. Yes, the enemy may well detect the drone, but even if they destroy it, the manned sub is safe.

The relationship between sub and drone would be a bit like that between a hunter and his hound, working together to find prey.

“Advances in maritime technology are critical to the Department of Defense and an area where the U.S. military can continue to strengthen its advantage,” said Geoff Edelson, director of Maritime Systems and Technology at BAE Systems. “With the resurgence of near-peer competitors and an increasing number of submarines, MOCCA technology will provide Navy submariners with a vital asymmetrical advantage against a rapidly proliferating undersea threat.”

To meet the MOCCA program’s ambitious Phase 1 goals, BAE Systems’ researchers will design efficient sonar capabilities to maximize detection range and improve target identification and tracking.

The MOCCA program demonstrates BAE Systems’ strength in innovation and its capability to design technologies for future combat scenarios. The research and development team at BAE Systems regularly works closely with DARPA and other defense research institutes to create and deliver capabilities that improve the competitive advantages of the U.S. armed forces.