Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)
Maritime Patrol Aircraft are tasked with monitoring important naval assets.The Maritime Patrol Aircraft, regarded more now as a multi-role surveillance platform, operates primarily in three key roles: Anti-Submarine Warfare; Anti-Surface Unit Warfare; and Searchand Rescue.
Anti-Submarine Warfare [ASW] is a role that relates to the prosecution of submarine contacts. The submarines operating environment and modes mean that submarine detections can be made either above or below the surface of the sea. This, in turn, drives the requirement for an anti-submarine platform to have a sophisticated range of sensors and a reliable, advanced means of coordinating the sensor outputs. Once a submarine has been detected by the platform, the ultimate aim of the crew is to then localize and track the target, or even destroy it.
The principle activities involved with ASW are as follows:
- Acoustic Detection. The chief method of detecting and tracking a submerged vessel isthrough the use of sonobuoys which are launchedinto the sea. These sonobuoys are launched inpatterns which are predetermined in order toprovide the optimum coverage and thus the best chance of locating the submarine.
- Area Coverage. Another ASW search task requirement is the thorough and continuous radar/visual/EW cover of the assigned search area to ensure that, if a target does expose any part of his structure above the surface, the ASW platform's chances of detection are maximised.
- Recognition of Target. A target is going to appear as a very small, fleeting (radar or visual), or quiet, ambiguous (acoustic or EW) contact against a background of small, fleeting or quiet, ambiguous noise. Quickly recognising, and reacting to the presence of a target is vital to ultimate success.
- Effective Choice of Tactics. Employing the most effective tactics in response to the opportunity presented is equally vital.
- Speedy and Accurate Assimilation of Target Data. Data from the target may arrive by several means at different times. Each source will have different strengths and weaknesses and the crew captain must quickly assimilate the disparate data into a single, cohesive 'target' on which the crew can focus. The information received must be clear, concise and coherent if a correct decision is to be made.
Anti-Surface Unit Warfare [ASUW] relates to the prosecution of surface shipping, both military and commercial. The military surface ship's operating environment means that it is relatively vulnerable to aircraft, and it therefore compensates by maximising the threat whichit can pose to aircraft. Such units can carry a wide range of technologically advanced, long range anti-aircraft weapons system. Non-combatant vessels must rely on the anonymity and remoteness bestowed by millions of square miles of ocean as their only defence against intervention by aircraft. The combination of the need to search large areas of ocean, and the requirement to stand-off from potentially hostile contacts, drives the requirement for an ASUW platform to have one or more sophisticated, long-range search and classification tools, such as ESM and radar. Optimising the performance of, and output from, the sesensors requires detailed and lengthy co-ordination. Once a surface contact hasbeen detected by the platform, the aim is to shadow the target, or even destroy it.
The principle activities involved with ASUW are as follows:
- Area Coverage. One of the primary ASUWsearch task requirements is the security of theradar/visual/EW cover of the assigned search areato ensure that, if a target does pass through asurveyed area, the ASUW platform's chances ofdetection are maximised.
- Target Classification. Most radar contacts will appear similar at first sight. Quickly analysing, recognising, and reacting to the presence of a target is vital to ultimate success. Similar processing is required for EW-generated contacts, although their analysis is more objective than for radar returns.
- Effective Choice of Tactics and Speedy and Accurate Assimilation of Target Data. Clearly the data from surface unit contacts arrivesfrom a number of diverse sources and so these activities have much in common with an ASW mission. A quick and accurate assimilation of the data, together with a suitable choice of tactics are essential for an effective mission performance.
Search and Rescue (SAR) is an activity which takes place during peace and war. It traditionally takes the highest priority in any list of tasks, and it varies in nature from incident to incident. An aircraft is capable of dropping Search and Rescue equipment or acting as a Scene of Search Coordinator for incidents such as oil rig disasters.
SAR operations must be guided by 3 principles:
- Speed. A SAR platform must be able to react quickly to taskings, and to changing situations.
- Flexibility. A SAR platform must be able to meet varying demands with appropriately varying responses.
- Safety. A SAR platform must be able to monitorits own, and other's, safety, and be able to act toensure this safety is preserved with as little detrimental impact on the task in hand as ispossible.
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