The Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW) roles are demanding ones, needing aircraft with the endurance and range to cover large areas, as well as the sensors and mission system to find and follow targets, and weapons to prosecute them if desired. Comfortable crew operating conditions are required for what are frequently long flights, and safe handling characteristics at low-level over water. Aircraft in the ASW role routinely fly missions lasting more than 8 hours, partly in order to patrol large areas of water to search for submarines, and partly because it is essential not to lose contact with a discovered submarine that is being monitored.
These missions are typically conducted at low levels, often down to 500ft, to ensure that the on-board sensors can detect and track targets. At these altitudes fuel burn is higher, flying conditions can be uncomfortable for crews, and there is a risk to aircraft safety from its proximity to the sea. ASuW missions involve similar challenges in addition to the need to avoid attack by the ship being targeted. A range of sensors has to be carried in order to overcome the defensive tactics and countermeasures used by submarine commanders. Acoustic, radar, infrared, LIDAR, and magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) sensors are all in use, and new technologies are being developed. It is also essential to carry an extensive communications suite because ASW/ASuW operations are frequently conducted in co-operation with friendly ships or other aircraft, sometimes of other nations, requiring skilled co-ordination of tactics. A sophisticated and intuitive mission system is vital to integrate the diverse sensor-inputs and ensure maximum effectiveness for the multi-man crew. Finally the aircraft needs to be able to deploy sonobuoys to help detect a submarine plus torpedoes and/or depth charges to destroy it if required.
Airbus Military is the market leader in the medium-size ASW/ASuW sector. The C295
has an endurance of up to 11 hours, excellent low-level flying characteristics with up to 3g manoeuvrability and a cruise speed optimised for persistent surveillance and wide area coverage. It benefits from wide field-of-view bubble windows and safe low-speed flying characteristics. And it has special anti-corrosion treatment for the maritime environment, contributing to its low cost of ownership. The C295 is normally equipped with the Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS)
, providing up to four operators with an advanced interface with the sensors to ensure maximum operational effectiveness. The system processes the data from sensors including: radar, electro-optic/infrared, acoustics, MAD, automatic identification system, IFF, communications and electronic intelligence. Communications include satcoms, HF/VHF/UHF, and Link 11 and Link 16 datalinks. In the ASW, role it features sonobuoy and armament inventory management with launch pattern control. The C295 has been in service, and armed with Mk46 torpedoes since 2010. For longer-range ASW missions Airbus Military offers the A320 family with the potential to provide true oceanic coverage