SonoFlash is a new-generation A-size sonobuoy developed to meet a French Navy anti-submarine warfare (ASW) requirement. As well as forming part of a broader effort to re-establish a sovereign industrial capability in sonobuoy design and manufacture, the programme is also growing an ‘ecosystem’ of small and medium enterprises – such as TELERAD, SelhaGroup and Realmeca – to support local production.
Unlike other sonobuoys on the market, which are either active or passive in operation, SonoFlash offers both modes by integrating a high-powered transmitter and a passive low-frequency directional receiver into a single acoustic buoy. This dual modality is intended to increase tactical flexibility, reduce the overall number of sonobuoys needed in a field, and open up opportunities for multistatic operation.
Following feasibility studies in 2016, Thales was awarded a contract by France’s Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) in January 2021 for the full development, qualification, and production of SonoFlash. Qualification is planned by late 2024, with the French Navy planning to field SonoFlash on modernised Atlantique ATL2 maritime patrol aircraft and NH90 Caïman helicopters.
Thales and DGA have already completed a number of key test and trials events ahead of completing formal qualification. Trials were performed in the Mediterranean in May 2022 to verify the mechanical deployment of the SonoFlash acoustic antennas after water entry. More recently, DGA has worked with Thales to measure and characterise the acoustic performance of the SonoFlash buoy at the DGA range facility located in a lake in the Alps.
While the French Navy is the launch customer for SonoFlash, Thales sees international sales as essential to drive volume production. As well as dispense from helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft, the company believes the compact size of SonoFlash will find a market for deployment from unmanned air vehicles and unmanned surface vessels.
Check out our video coverage of the Thales tent at Sea-Air-Space 2023: