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Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS)

The SOund SUrveillance System (SOSUS) provides deep-water long-range detection capability. SOSUS enjoyed tremendous success during the Cold War tracking submarines by their faint acoustic signals. SOSUS consists of high-gain long fixed arrays in the deep ocean basins

BEAM accesses form beams from multiple hydrophone arrays trained on the seafloor to provide signal gain obtained through beam forming.

PHONE accesses individual hydrophones from arrays throughout the oceans provides omni-directional coverage.

With the advent of submarine warfare and it's impact on Allied forces and supply lines in WWII, the need for timely detection of undersea threats was made a high priority in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). As technology of the time progressed, it was recognized that shore-based monitoring stations were the answer to the problem since they could be made basically impervious to destruction, foul weather, and ambient self-generated noise. Since the early 1950s the Atlantic and Pacific oceans have been under the vigilence of SOSUS, with long acoustic sensors (hydrophones) installed across the ocean bottom at key locations. SOSUS has transitioned from single-beam paper displays to computer-based workstations for acoustic data analysis. By the end of FY 1998, the Shore Signal Information Processing Segment (SSIPS) and Surveillance Direction System (SDS) had been installed at all shore facilities, giving SOSUS a common equipment configuration and significantly reducing system infrastructure support costs.

With the development of quieter submarines and counter-tactics to evade SOSUS, newer technologies have been implemented over the years to "keep up with the threat". Faster processors, higher capacity storage devices, and "cleaner code" has enabled the advancement of the art of locating undersea threats. Currently, the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) uses all of these advancements in the Fixed Surveillance System (FSS), Fixed Distributed System (FDS), and the Advanced Deployable System (ADS).

SOSUS Arrays are being placed in a standby status in which the data is available but not continuously monitored. In the event of a resurgence in the global submarine threat the worldwide network of fixed undersea surveillance systems such as the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) a critical asset. Since the end of the Cold War, Reservists have been increasing their role in this mission area. In a recent report, entitled The Future Naval Reserve: Roles & Missions, Size & Shape, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs stated that "expanding Reserve Component participation in this area would help protect the capital investment and maintain the infrastructure in peacetime for a potential resurgent undersea threat." This report also notes that, in the absence of a global threat, Reservists are helping to meet today's more limited surveillance needs while training for the future.

The deployment and maintenance of the undersea components of the IUSS shore systems is accomplished by technicians and engineers operating from IUSS Cable Support Ships.

Under operational command of the U.S. Navy's Commander Undersea Surveillance (CUS) IUSS shore systems are staffed and operated by uniformed U.S. Navy personnel. System life cycle and engineering support is provided by carreer civil servants (NISE East Code 341) and contractor personnel located at the IUSS Operations Support Center (IOSC).

The 50s and 60s witnessed the birth, early childhood, development, and growth of undersea surveillance, originally called the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). With the 70s came technology upgrades both in shore and underwater systems. This decade also saw planning for new cableships, super NAVFACs, and the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor (SURTASS) system. The 80s witnessed consolidation of shore assets, enabled by technological advances in underwater systems, arrival of the first SURTASS ships, delivery of the cableship USNS ZEUS, and the end of the Cold War. Thus far, the 90s have seen beginnings such as in the Advanced Deployable System (ADS) and endings in the last of the NAVFACs, Keflavik, ceasing operations. The following reflect upon some of the highlights of the past five decades...

1960's | 1970's | 1980's | 1990's | End

  • 1949 - As a result of experience during recent hostilities, the Navy announced its intention to exploit passive sonar for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) purposes.
  • 1950 - Due to renewed interest in underwater acoustic research, the Navy established Project Hartwell under MIT leadership. It was named in honor of Dr. G.P. Hartwell, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Undersea Warfare and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. The project was initiated to structure a long range defense against submarines. Concluding that detection of low frequency sound was the answer to the snorkeling diesel submarine problem, the committee recommended $10 million of R&D funding annually to be applied toward development of an effective, long range, acoustic detection sensor system using bottomed hydrophone arrays.
  • 1950, 29 Oct - Western Electric Company (WECO) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) representatives met to draft WECO's proposal. Less than one month later, on 13 November, a letter contract was issued.
  • 1951 - A six-element test array was installed at Eleuthera. Ensign Joe Kelly was assigned as BUSHIPS Code 849 to oversee two high priority projects - Project Jezebel, a Bell Telephone Labs (BTL) effort, and Project Michael, a parallel Columbia University effort. Both projects focused on exploiting long range acoustics in the ocean.
  • 1952 - In a top secret letter, CNO directed BUSHIPS to procure six sets of Low Frequency Ranging (LOFAR) components for deployment for deployment in the North Atlantic basin. The classified name SOSUS was established, and the unclassified name Caesar was established to cover installation and production. The number of planned stations increased to nine later that year. HMS ALERT installed an initial 40-element operational array off Eleuthera in early January for a 50 day total charter cost of $56K. Cableships USNS NEPTUNE and MYER were assigned to Project Caesar. These humble beginnings of the "Caesar Fleet" were subsequently augmented (over the next several decades) with USNS THOR, AEOLUS, MIZAR, HUDDELL, ZEUS, and a cameo appearance by USNS WATERS.
  • 1953 - Part of Project Jezebel was a design study of a short range, high frequency, upward-looking set of bottomed active sources to be located in a key strait as a complement to SOSUS; this was known as Project Colossus.
  • 1954 - Ten additional Caesar stations were authorized, including three for the Atlantic and six for the Pacific, with one in Hawaii. The first naval facility, NAVFAC Ramey, was commissioned in September followed by Grand Turk in October and San Salvador in December.
  • 1955 - NAVFACs were established in Bermuda, Shelburne, Nantucket, and Cape May.
  • 1956 - NAVFACs Cape Hatteras and Antigua were established. Evaluation Centers became operational in New York and Norfolk.
  • 1957 - NAVFACs Eleuthera, Barbados and San Nicholas Island, in the Pacific, were established.
  • 1958 - Commander, Oceanographic System, Atlantic was established. Oceanographic units in New York, San Juan and Norfolk were disestablished. NAVFACs Point Sur, Centerville Beach, Pacific Beach, Coos Head were established along the Pacific West Coast.
  • 1958 to 1960 - The Atlantic and Pacific Missile Impact Location Systems (MILS) were installed in support of national priorities other than ASW.
  • 1959 - NAVFAC Argentia was established.

1950's | 1970's | 1980's | 1990's | End

  • 1960 - The King Shallow Water System was installed and terminated at NAVFAC Argentia. It included ten 8-element arrays on two 40-pair cables intended to counter Soviet Union Hudson Bay submarine patrols.
  • 1961 - SOSUS tracks the USS George Washington from CONUS to the UK.
  • 1962 - NAVFAC Adak was established. NAVFAC Lewes was established after NAVFAC Cape May was destroyed by the notorious "Ash Wednesday / Good Friday" storm. The first major shore processing system upgrade, the Digital Spectrum Analysis (DSA) was installed at NAVFAC Lewes. It featured 9 inch grams in place of the previous 4 inch grams. Roman numeral time marks, however, remained.
  • 1962, 26 Jun - NAVFAC Cape Hatteras made the first SOSUS detection of a Soviet diesel submarine.
  • 1962, 6 Jul - NAVFAC Barbados made the first detection of a Soviet nuclear submarine as it crossed over the gap between Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom (known as the GIUK Gap).
  • 1962, 26 Oct - The first positive correlation and sighting was made, at NAVFAC Grand Turks, of a SOSUS contact. A VP aircraft contact was made on a Soviet Foxtrot class submarine, designated Charlie 20, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • 1963 - The first 2x20 array was installed at NAVFAC Argentia. In April, the USS THRESHER sank, and SOSUS played a critical role in pinpointing the location of the incident.
  • 1964 - Commander, Oceanographic System, Pacific was established. OP-95, Director, ASW programs was established under VADM Charles B. Martell. Project Caesar was transferred from BUSHIPS to Industrial Manager, Potomac River Command and then to the Naval District, Washington the following year.
  • 1966 - NAVFAC Keflavik was established exactly one year after the decision was made to deploy SOSUS in northern waters. Project Caesar was transferred to Naval Electronics Systems Command, Code EPO-3, located at main Navy (now the site of the Vietnam Memorial). The first 3x16 array system was terminated at Keflavik.
  • 1968 - In May, the USS SCORPION submarine sank southwest of the Azores. In this same year, a Soviet Golf class SSB sank north of Hawaii. SOSUS played a key role in locating the sites of both disasters. The first detection of Victor and Charlie class Soviet submarines were detected by NAVFAC Keflavik.

1950's | 1960's | 1980's | 1990's | End

  • 1970 - The first women were assigned to operational billets at NAVFAC Eleuthera. The Oceanographic Technician (OT) rate was established. NAVFAC San Salvador became the first NAVFAC to be decommissioned.
  • 1972 - PME 124 was established and the modernization of SOSUS began.
  • 1973 - CAPT Joe Kelly, known as the "father of SOSUS", retired.>
  • 1974 - NAVFAC Brawdy was established as the first "Super NAVFAC." NAVFAC Keflavik made the first detection on a Soviet Delta class submarine.
  • Mid 1970's - CAPT Dempster Jackson became PME 124... and the rest is history.
  • 1977 - The first woman commanding officer of a NAVFAC, LCDR Peggy Frederick, took command of NAVFAC Lewes. CAPT Harry Cox relieved RADM Dempster Jackson as PME 124.

1950's | 1960's | 1970's | 1990's | End

  • 1980 - Naval Oceanographic Processing Facility (NOPF) Dam Neck was established.
    The Western Atlantic (WESTLANT) array consolidation was completed.
  • 1981 - NOPF Ford Island was established.
  • 1984 - USNS STALWART, the first SURTASS ship, arrived at Little Creek. It was later followed by PREVAIL, INVINCIBLE, BOLD, ABLE, AUDACIOUS, TENACIOUS, VICTORIOUS and EFFECTIVE. Delivery was made on the first Navy cableship to be built from the hull up; this was the USNS ZEUS. The IUSS Operational Support Center (IOSC) was established.
  • 1985 - Readiness Training Facility (RTF) was established at Dam Neck. The new system name of Integrated Undersea Surveillance System was established. The Fixed Distributed
    System test array, a low frequency, passive acoustic surveillance system for detection of quiet submarines using hydrophones densely distributed on the sea floor, was terminated at NAVFAC Brawdy.
  • 1986 - NAVELEX, PME 124, became SPAWAR, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, PMW 180.
  • 1987 - NAVFAC Whidbey Island was established.
  • 1988 - CAPT Joe Kelly (Ret.) passed away at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
  • 1989 - The "Iron Curtain: fell with repercussions worldwide, including the breakup of the Soviet Union, the easing of tensions between the "Super Powers" of the world, and the eventual downsizing of U.S. Military forces, including IUSS. PMW 180 was renamed Program Directorate 80 (PD 80).

1950's | 1960's | 1970's | 1980's | End

  • 1990 - Authorization was given for IUSS officers to wear the IUSS insignia on their uniforms.
  • 1991 - The SOSUS IUSS system mission was declassified.
  • 1992 - NAVFAC Centerville Beach survived 3 earthquakes registering 6.9, 7.0, and 7.1 on the Richter scale. The USNS VICTORIOUS became the first swath hull SURTASS ship accepted by the Navy.
  • 1993 - CAPT Marnee Finch became the first woman Commodore as Commander Undersea Surveillance Pacific.
  • 1994 - The Commander Undersea Surveillance Atlantic and Pacific consolidated into one command located in Norfolk, VA. Subsequently, the Command relocated to Dam Neck. Unfortunately, the downsizing of Undersea Surveillance was in full swing. HMCS TRINITY was established at Halifax.
  • 1995 - JMF St. Mawgan was established, replacing NAVFAC Brawdy. SPAWAR PD80 became SPAWAR PD18 and was designated the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Directorate.
  • 1995, 19 Apr - Advanced Deployable System (ADS) officially became the newest member of IUSS, entering full scale development as a major program.
  • 1996 - NAVFAC Keflavik ceased operations after 30 years.
  • 1996, 30 Sep - The FDS program successfully reached Full Operational Capability (FOC).
  • 1997 - Following the words of Horace Greeley, the Base Realignment Commission (BRAC) said "Go West, SPAWAR." Throughout this year, SPAWAR completed its move to San Diego, CA.

Begin | 1950's | 1960's | 1970's | 1980's

With the end of the Cold War, SOSUS hydrophone arrays in both the Atlantic and Pacific faced an uncertain future of shutdowns and closings. Consolidation of SOSUS by array retermination, remoting, or closure was complete by FY97. Closures included Bermuda, Adak, and Keflavik. All other arrays will remain operational. SOSUS in the North Pacific is currently being analyzed for low-frequency vocalizations from marine mammals living in the open ocean.

Since the 1950s, the Navy's SOSUS has been supported at sea by a combined effort of AT&T (now Lucent Technologies) and the Military Sealift Command (MSC). The contract awarded to AT&T each year was a sole-source contract, based on its unique capabilities to perform the cable handling at sea. In an attempt to foster competition and reduce the increasing costs of this work, a waiver signed by ASN/RDA, Nora Slatkin, authorized SPAWAR to proceed with a full and open competition. Award was made to a combination of AT&T (Lucent) and MSC at significant savings over the overall estimated cost of the proposed work. Both AT&T and MSC had reviewed their technical needs and business practices and had reduced both the number of people involved in the program, as well as the corporate structure (overhead) necessary to support the work. This award ended a 30+ year sole-source lock on this work and put the Navy in a competitive position for the future.

On 26 April 1999 Lockheed Martin Corp., Manassas, Va., was awarded a $107,031,978 firm-fixed-price contract for Phase II of a deep water, undersea surveillance system. This system is a long life, passive acoustic surveillance system that can be configured for multiple mission applications. It has the capability to provide long-term barrier and field acoustic surveillance, long-range acoustic surveillance coverage of open ocean areas, and acoustic surveillance in areas with high ambient noise. This contract contains one option, which, if exercised, would bring the total cumulative value of this contract to $153,234,288. Work will be performed in Manassas, Va., and is expected to be completed by September 2005. This contract was competitively procured through the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command electronic commerce web site and Commerce Business Daily with two offers solicited and two offers received. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N00039-99-C-2202).



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