A new sonar system developed by the Israel navy and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. significantly improves the detection capabilities of Israel's fleet of Dolphin submarines. Development of the new sonar took three years, and it has been installed on the navy's submarines for the past two years.
Another submarine, the INS Rahav, was added to Israel's fleet at the beginning of the year, bringing its total to five submarines. German company HDW supplied the vessel. A sixth submarine will be supplied to Israel in 2019. The submarine's estimated cost is $350 million, making it the most expensive single weapon in the IDF. Previous foreign reports said that these submarines were capable of carrying missiles armed with nuclear warheads, thereby providing Israel with second strike capability, if and when it comes under a nuclear attack.
Up until two years ago, the navy's submarine missions were based on the German sonar systems. Under cover of strict secrecy, however, the navy described to Rafael engineers its current needs, and asked for a new sonar device capable of upgrading its submarines' detection and fighting capabilities. "It all comes from need," Israel Navy underwater combat systems section head Lieutenant Colonel Tal Schwartzmann explained to "Globes." "We analyzed past things that happened to us, and learned about cases in which various vessels were in the vicinity of our submarines, which did not notice them in real time. The proximity of our submarines to those vessels was discovered only in debriefings."
Eyes and ears
Sonar systems are a submarine's eyes and ears. The systems are built to detect noise and voices coming from various occurrences both above and below the surface, so that the occurrences can be analyzed and turned into operational information. Every submarine has sonar systems analysts who have received lengthy and complex special training in Israel Navy submarine courses. Another submariners' class is graduating today.
Constantly wearing their earphones, the sonarists' job is to monitor noises and translate them into information. At sea, almost anything produces a unique noise. The sonarists connect the sounds, which are sometimes quite irritating, to the type of activity occurring nearby: trade ships' engines, dolphins, unmanned vessels, warships, and even infrastructure laid on the sea bottom. In a submarine, you cannot just hear a noise, open a window, and see exactly what is going on outside.
The new sonar is operated on Dolphin submarines together with the original sonar systems installed on them when they were supplied to the navy by the German manufacturer. The algorithms used in the sonar systems enable it to ignore many of the noises that can disrupt the range of the systems' activity, while detecting very distant noises, which the German sonar systems are unable to do. The expanded ranges that the new sonar systems provide to the Israeli submarines are very significant, compared with the coverage hitherto provided by the German sonar systems used by the submarine teams. "Under the conditions of a submarine in combat, there is no time. We have a saying that whoever detects the threat first is the one to attack and destroy the other side," Schwartzmann says. "The new sonar increases our detection rate by up to 40%, thereby enabling us to neutralize noises that interfere with the submarine's work."
According to Schwartzmann, the new capabilities provided to the Dolphin submarines by the Israeli sonar also include detection of vessels with a low noise signature. This means that with the new sonar, even vessels equipped with advanced quiet engines will be detected very quickly by the sonarists monitoring occurrences in the area in which their submarine is operating. "In the case of vessels with a low noise signature, we aren't talking about trade ships, because parties engaging in trade do not invest large amounts on lowering the noise signature emitted by vessels equipped with advanced and up-to-date engines. We're talking about other types of vessels. A submarine with the new sonar will also detect another submarine first and start following it long before the other submarine's crew realizes that it has been detected, if it ever does," Schwartzmann concludes.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 9, 2016
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