The sabotaging of the NORDSTREAM oil pipeline in the Baltic Sea has drawn attention to the issue of how to protect underwater infrastructure. This type of infrastructure, of vital importance for a nation’s economy and well-being, includes not only energy pipelines but also the large cables that enable the exchange of data and communications via the internet. Their interruption, alteration and other forms of tampering with this type of infrastructure have immediate tangible consequences for all of our lives. In short, this is a matter of great strategic significance and especially so for Italy, a country with over 8,000 km of coastline, an economy that is highly dependent on the sea and energy supplies that pass largely through underwater pipelines (TAP, TRANS MED, GREEN STREAM).
To combat threats from the underwater domain it is therefore essential to be able to deploy cutting-edge technologies, such as equipment that enables the discovery, tracking and classification of potential threats, together with systems capable of neutralising them. Leonardo is a world leader in the underwater sector and has developed top-level technologies and products in this area. These include the new sonar towed ATAS (Active Towed Array System): an active/passive sonar for the panoramic surveillance and classification of various types of underwater craft, including nuclear and conventional submarines and midget submarines of the type often used to install saboteur devices. The ATAS is a highly compact system employing advanced algorithms, a number of which were developed in cooperation with NATO’s CMRE (Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation).
The ATAS can also detect and classify attacking torpedoes, as can the Leonardo’s Black Snake passive towed sonar, a distinctive feature that makes it highly flexible and tactically adaptable. The composition of the ATAS includes an onboard launch and recovery system, a heavy cable, the towed body, a lightweight cable and a reception array. Another feature of particular interest is its embedded capability for training and debriefing the operational mission. The ATAS is currently in the final stages of appraisal and is earmarked for installation aboard the Full version of the Italian Navy’s offshore patrol vessels (referred to as PPA, for Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura).
Leonardo’s underwater capabilities obviously also include torpedoes, an area in which the company has a long tradition of cutting-edge technology and excellence. The company’s most recent products in this area include the Black Scorpion. This mini-torpedo weighs about 20 kg, making it ideal for countering threats such as midget submarines, small boats and SDVs (Seal Delivery Vehicle).. The Black Scorpion has a range of action of several kilometres and can be launched from small submarines via pneumatic tubes (of the type used to launch Leonardo countermeasures), and from helicopters or UAVs using specially designed electromagnetic release units. The mini torpedo can also be launched from a small surface vessel using a specific pyrotechnical canister. This highly flexible system is already attracting a great deal of interest on the market.
Leonardo also offers the Black Shark Advanced, a heavy-duty torpedo with a well-established history that is used by multiple customers including the Italian navy, which uses it on its Second Series Todaro submarines. The company is considering the future integration of new technologies in the Black Shark Advanced torpedo to further increase its stand-off distance, as well as using the rechargeable battery even while in service.