The United States wants to do everything to establish military dominance, and recently they have developed new acoustics, sensors and quieting technologies to improve in the undersea domain. China and Russia keep modernizing their submarines, and the United States needs to keep track and have the best Navy out of the three.
In order to stay on top, the US Navy is launching the Bloc III Virginia-Class attack submarine which is the most advanced sub ever seen in the seas. The officials are praising the technologies the new submarine sports, but unfortunately, the public will never learn more about the Navy research and development. The USS South Dakota has been a “technology demonstrator to prove out advanced technologies,” according to Naval Sea Systems Command Spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke.
Navy christened the USS South Dakota at a General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Groton, Ct. O’Rourke added: “As the 7th ship of Block III, the PCU South Dakota (SSN 790) will be the most advanced VIRGINIA class submarine on patrol.”
It was important for this to happen because the US is no longer as dominant under the sea as they have been due to the Russian and Chinese advancements. This so-called “acoustic superiority” came at the right time, showing that the United States will not allow so easily to be surpassed by its rivals. Both Virginia-Class and the Columbia-Class, which is the next-generation of the nuclear-armed vessels will receive the new technology. This is known as the fourth generation of undersea tech, and unlike its predecessors, the new technology is based upon a “domain” perspective instead of a platform approach.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke added: “Lessons learned from South Dakota will be incorporated into Block V and later Virginia Class submarines, increasing our undersea domain advantage and ensuring our dominance through the mid-century and beyond.”
The “acoustic superiority” concept aims for the submarines to operate undetected when they are near the waters of the enemy coastline. Furthermore, the new subs need to sense any movement or any activities on a long range, longer than the enemy subs. The new acoustic sensor tech works via submarine sensors which detect sound that can tell us more about the speed and distance of the enemy ship, submarine or a missile. It works on a similar principle as radars which analyze the return electromagnetic signal that bounces of an object. According to the Navy tech developers, most of the technology which is used underwater is passive, and it can only receive “pings” without sending out any signal.
The new tech relies on very sensitive acoustic sensors which are passive, but which are able to detect any sort of movement. In other words, the US Navy will have an idea of a vessel or a missile at a farther range while their sub will be unnoticed. Moreover, the Navy leaders explained that fast two-way communication is something which will have to wait. Achieving that is tricky because of the undersea domain, but the submarines are using a Very Low-Frequency radio to communicate among themselves while they are at various depths.
However, these new technologies are not where America plans to stop. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and BAE-Systems are starting with the development of the undersea drones which will be equipped with active sonar in order to locate the enemy subs and inform the US and allied subs about their position in real-time. This project is called Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach program (MOCCA), and it will further strengthen the position of the US undersea.
Unlike the subs, the drones will use active sonar technology which will send the “pings” forward and analyze them as they return. They will be able to detect any foreign object located ahead, as well as to determine its characteristics such as shape, distance, speed, and counters. As the technological margin of difference which separates the US from its rivals reduces, this is more than necessary for the US to still be in the lead.