New submarine technologies spur growth in airborne ASW market

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According to Forecast International’s annual review of the market for airborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) sensors, the next 10 years will see production of more than 199,000 systems valued at $6.1 billion.

This growth in the airborne ASW sensor market reflects the fact that aircraft remain the most mobile, flexible, and cost-effective ASW systems available to the world’s navies. 

Despite economic doubts and uncertainties sur­rounding the defence industry in the first decade of the 21st century, aircraft continue to be the most dangerous adversary faced by a submarine fleet. 

“Airborne ASW systems are likely to be the first line of defence against any major submarine threat over the next decade,” said Stuart Slade, senior naval editor at Forecast International (FI).

For that reason, the research and development funding that accounts for nearly half of this sector`s fiscal value is of critical importance for the future of the market as a whole.

In the analysis, Slade notes the dynamic nature of this market sector’s technology, which is revolutionising submarines: the introduction of air-independent propulsion for diesel-electric submarines; new weapons and sensor technologies; new silencing techniques; and, perhaps most significantly, the widespread introduction of unmanned underwater vehicles for more hazardous duties. 

Silencing techniques, originally designed for nuclear boats, have made the latest diesel-electric designs remarkably quiet.

At the same time, ASW detection technology has also advanced. 

Computers continue to increase their processing speed, allowing data to be handled more quickly and accurately.  The advanced technology allows more accurate detection of the source of a sound, providing the ability to disentangle the slight and transient sounds made by a submarine from the sea`s background noises. 

Improving datalinks and information dissemination means that target data can get from the spotter to the shooter with minimum delay.

Sonobuoys still represent 99.4 percent of the airborne ASW market, with the sale of 198 046 units projected over the next 10 years. 

Yet, in terms of value of production, these units represent only $212.35 million, or 3.50 percent of the market. 

The average cost of the units in this category is about $1000, stressing the very low-cost/high-volume aspect of this segment. Sales of radar sets optimised for periscope and snort detection, and electronic support measures (ESM) equipment designed to localize radar and communications transmissions from subma­rines and dipping sonars, are expected to total 1119 units over the next 10 years, valued at $5.84 billion, for a unit cost of $5.226 million. 

The airborne ASW sector has only eight major corporate participants. Leading the segment is Raytheon, which is expected to achieve sales of $1.9 billion (31.51 percent market share) over the next 10 years. 

The Telephonics Division of Griffon Corp follows, with a projected 10-year sales value of $559 million (9.22 percent market share).  L‑3 Communications holds third place, with projected sales of $300 million (4.95 percent).

These companies have maintained their position by exploiting new technologies and materials to increase equipment reliability and performance while lowering life-cycle costs, crucial qualities among the military services, FI says. 

Pic: Boeing P8 poseidon

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