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The French Navy has selected the SonoFlash new-generation sonobuoy from Thales. Three decades ago, only the superpowers had a true undersea warfare capability, but numerous countries now deploy modern submarine fleets. At the same time, forces increasingly operate in littoral waters, which are much more complex for sonar systems, rather than in the relative certainty of open-ocean environments.

Responding to this evolving threat environment, Thales developed the SonoFlash buoy, a new-generation sonobuoy, unveiled at Euronaval 2018, with an unequalled performance-to-mass ratio that builds on decades of expertise in sonars and acoustic sensors to offer an ambitious new solution.

Its innovative design and advanced technology include a number of key features to deliver unrivalled performance. Today’s sonobuoys are either passive or active. By contrast, SonoFlash offers the best of both modes, combining a powerful, optimised low-frequency transmitter with a high-directivity passive receiver. With the combination of these two capabilities, and the added advantage of long endurance, SonoFlash is suitable for a wide array of deployment scenarios.

French Navy SonoFlash Applications

Fully compatible with the other families of Thales sonars, SonoFlash offers high tactical flexibility and opens up promising new opportunities for multistatic operation. Coupled with the FLASH dipping sonar, for example, SonoFlash enables an aircraft to expand its coverage area and respond with greater agility to evasive manoeuvres by a submarine. Thanks to its digitised signal and optimal communication range, SonoFlash data can be readily exploited by any piloted or remotely piloted aircraft, naval vessel or shore centre equipped with a sonobuoy processing system.

The French Navy will be the first operational user of SonoFlash, which will be deployed by the modernised ATLANTIQUE 2 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and NH90 CAIMAN helicopters. It will be delivered to the Navy from 2025 and could be available in export markets to equip all modern MPAs and helicopters. This is in addition to unmanned platforms, including:

Manufactured in France with a network of SMEs such as TELERAD, SelhaGroup and Realmeca, SonoFlash relies on Thales’s expertise in acoustic sensor technology to contribute to France’s desire for independence in strategic industries.

Jack Richardson