New sonar makes Gareloch-based mine hunter best in the world
No ship can hunt mines in the ocean depth better than HMS Grimsby, pictured right, after she became the first ship to receive revolutionary sonar.
The Faslane-based warship is the first of seven in her class to be fitted with next-generation Sonar 2093 – allowing her crew to find mines and underwater explosives more easily and at greater distances.
The improved sonar uses frequency modulation – similar to an FM radio – which reduces background clutter and allows it to ‘see’ further.
It means it is more likely to detect physical objects, rather than picking up stray sounds beneath the waves.
Lieutenant Commander Kevin Giles, a mine warfare specialist at the RN’s headquarters in Portsmouth, said: “This is a unique system, there is nothing as advanced in service worldwide. This capability will enable the Royal Navy to maintain its positon as a world-leader in mine counter measures.
“The picture the sonar provides the operator is much clearer, the detection range is much greater.”
The existing Sonar 2093 dates back to the 1980s. Not only is it ageing, but sourcing spare parts for the tech is proving increasingly difficult and will soon border on the impossible – hence the need to replace it.
The upgraded system – Sonar 2093 CSP (Capability Sustainment Programme) – exploits the same principles as Sonar 2193, fitted to Hunt-class mine hunters for a decade.
On those ships, the transmitter and receiver are flat and fixed to the hull. On Sandown-class vessels – all based at HM Naval Base Clyde – the technology is in a towed body, a device about one-metre in diameter which is lowered beneath the ship.
This lowerable sonar means Sandown-class ships can locate mines at much greater depths as it penetrates temperature layers in the ocean – layers which normally block sound waves.
Integrating the sonar into the towed body has posed engineers a significant challenge compared with the hull-mounted Sonar 2193 on the Hunt-class.
After half a dozen years’ work by experts at Thales UK, the first set was fitted to HMS Grimsby during her recent refit in Rosyth and following trials has been declared operational.
“It just requires a few days to get used to the new sonar – operators used to working on Hunts picked it up straight away. And in the longer term, it means there should be just one trainer for both classes of ship,” Lieutenant Commander Giles added.
The UK government is investing £45M in upgrading all seven Sandown-class vessels with the new sonar system which will be installed between now and 2023.