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France orders SonoFlash submarine-sniffing sonobuoys from Thales

SonoFlash sonobuoy
Photo: Thales

The French defense procurement agency DGA has awarded Thales a contract for the delivery of its new SonoFlash sonobuoy for French Navy anti-submarine warfare operations.

The French Navy will be the first operational user of the SonoFlash buoy, which will be deployed by the modernized Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft and NH90 Caiman tactical transport helicopters.

It will be delivered to the navy from 2025.

The contract marks France’s return to sonobuoy technology sovereignty after a lengthy dependence on US systems, which were supplied by Ultra and Sparton.

Thales noted the system could be available in export markets to equip all modern maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters as well as all types of unmanned platforms equipped with a suitable multi-sonobuoy dispenser.

While the majority of sonobuoys are either passive or active, the SonoFlash offers both features, combining an optimized low-frequency transmitter with a high-directivity passive receiver.

“With the combination of these two capabilities, and the added advantage of long endurance, the SonoFlash buoy is suitable for a wide array of deployment scenarios,” Thales said.

Coupled with the FLASH dipping sonar, the SonoFlash enables an aircraft to expand its coverage area and respond to evasive maneuvers by a submarine. The system also has digitized signal and optimal communication range, allowing for data to be exploited by any piloted or remotely piloted aircraft, naval vessel or shore center equipped with a sonobuoy processing system.

“Thales has packed 10 years of innovation in hardware and digital technologies into a tube measuring 91.4 cm long and 12.3 cm in diameter. SonoFlash extends the range of a naval force’s anti-submarine warfare operations,” Alexis Morel, VP Underwater Systems, Thales, commented.