Atlas Elektronik says low-frequency sonars will help vessels locate enemy submarines, torpedoes and ships from very long range

German defence firm Atlas Elektronik, a leading manufacturer of high-tech maritime and naval systems, is in the process of finalising a deal with India for supplying low-frequency sonar systems for Navy’s warships that will help them detect enemy submarines, warships and torpedoes from a long distance.

Atlas Elektronik officials, who spoke to a group of visiting Indian journalists at the company’s headquarters here last week, were optimistic of bagging the contract for the Active Towed Away Sonars (ACTAS) which would be mounted on six Indian Navy warships.

They said that the low-frequency sonars with active as well as passive operating systems would help vessels locate enemy submarines, torpedoes and ships from a very long range and take suitable safety measures.

India’s capabilities in developing and producing a range of sonars and a host of related systems have been rather good with the collaboration of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the Navy.

These sonars have been fitted on Navy’s front line combat ships, sources in the Navy said.

The Navy has 14 submarines but only eight are in operation at any given time. While 10 of them are Russian, others were supplied by HDW of Germany.

Exploring possibilities

The Navy has also been exploring possibilities to increase its capabilities which got a jolt after the devastating fire and explosions that sank INS Sindhurakshak, a Russian Kilo class submarine off the Mumbai coast in August.

Cost-effective

With over 100 years of experience in maritime technologies, Atlas Elektronik is likely to build more ACTAS systems later in India in partnership with BEL under Transfer of Technology (ToT) clause. Officials said that ACTAS could operate in deep as well as shallow waters.

With western India’s coastline being shallow and the eastern coastline much deeper, ACTAS would fit the bill for naval ships operating in the two regions in a cost-effective way, officials claimed.

With Scorpene submarines still a few years away, the Navy can build up its ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) capability and upgrade its submarine fleet with new torpedoes and combat management systems.

“With capabilities of DRDO and BEL, India can develop new Heavy Weight Torpedoes (HWT) and maybe go in for a modern torpedo like SeaHake of Atlas,’’ officials said.

Upgrading torpedoes

Atlas Elektronik is also engaged in upgrading over 64 SUT torpedoes, dubbed the most reliable and safe torpedo in the Navy’s arsenal. This will extend their life cycle by another 15 years, officials said. SUT torpedoes can be used from all Western platforms.

“German battery technology for torpedoes is inherently safe and does not trade off performance in terms of speed and range,’’ officials in Atlas Elektronik said, adding that in the aftermath of Sindhurakshak disaster India should evaluate the inherent chemical safety used in torpedo technology.

The German defence firm is also in the process of modernising the four Shishumar class submarines, bought from HDW, and while two of them have already undergone the upgrade, two others are under the process.

Last year, Atlas had set up its Indian subsidiary Atlas Elektronik India Private Limited with headquarters in New Delhi with the aim of intensifying the partnership with the Indian governmental customer and to initiate and expand cooperative ventures with Indian public and private sector units.

“Our desire is to further deepen our relationship with India and service the Navy better. We also want to integrate India into the global supply chain,” Volker Paltzo, CEO of Atlas Elektronik, told the visiting Indian journalists.

Since the 1980s, Atlas has worked closely with the Defence Ministry and the Navy, he said citing the example of delivery of four command and weapon control suites for the submarines of the Shishumar class.

(The Hindu correspondent travelled to Germany at the invitation of Atlas Elektronik, India)

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