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UK Spearhead plans accelerated capability insertion for Sonar 2087

Sonar 2087 – the four-ring towed body pictured here on HMS Westminster – equips eight RN Type 23 frigates. (Richard Scott/NAVYPIX)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Royal Navy (RN) have unveiled plans to fast-track a series of enhancements into the Sonar 2087 low-frequency active/passive variable depth sonar fitted to the RN's eight anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-optimised Type 23 frigates.

A Request for Information (RFI) released on 24 October has outlined a capability insertion project (CIP), which, as part of the RN's wider ASW Spearhead programme, will seek to deliver performance and operability improvements to maintain Sonar 2087's performance against a qualitatively improving ASW threat. The Spearhead innovation initiative is intended to transition new functionalities to the front line much faster than traditional processes allow.

The Sonar 2087 system, developed by Thales UK, adopts a low-frequency active variable depth sonar common to the proprietary CAPTAS-4/UMS 4249 low-frequency active/passive sonar but differs in that it additionally integrates a very-low-frequency passive towed array and a UK-developed software suite. Achieving initial operating capability in November 2007, Sonar 2087 remains the surface fleet's principal long-range ASW sensor and will be carried forward into the RN's new Type 26 frigates.

Sonar 2087 has been the subject of continued development by Thales through its service life. This has included an inboard replacement programme to introduce commercial off-the-shelf processing hardware, a technology refresh to transition to an open systems architecture, and periodic software updates.

While key capability requirements for the Sonar 2087 CIP remain classified, it is understood that the ASW Spearhead effort will fund a number of software-based capability insertions to improve detection and tracking, enhance the operator human-computer interface (HCI), and provide new decision aids and training tools.

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