In an interview with Naval News, Thales Senior Sales Manager for Asia François Merlo explained the capabilities of the SonoFlash and export prospects in the international market.
“The SonoFlash is unique in that it integrates both low frequency active and passive sonars into a single system. It is 3-4 times as effective in terms of coverage as the Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System.”
Francois Merlo, Thales Senior Sales Manager for Asia
“We think this is one of the system’s greatest advantages. Its small size means that it can be deployed from constrained platforms, such as drones.” said Merlo.
Thales won in January 2021 a DGA (French defence procurement agency) contract for the development, qualification and mass production of the new SonoFlash sonobuoy. This game changing active-passive sonobuoy is a strategic tool to complement the ASW systems currently deployed by the French Navy, providing France with a sovereign solution for high-performance acoustic buoys. According to Merlo, the SonoFlash will be ready for export by 2025.
“The system is currently in the industrialization phase, with production due to take place within a few years. Our first customer will most likely be the French Navy. Because this platform is so new, we first need to explain the concept to potential international customers like South Korea. Despite this, we think it will likely interest the ROKN. The ROKN already operates our company’s dipping sonar. We are ready to carry out a ‘demonstration plan’ if the ROKN is interested.” Merlo added.
Thales and South Korea’s SonarTech signed a memorandum of understanding at DX Korea on September 21st. Given this, it is likely that the two companies will cooperate on SonoFlash if South Korea does decide to purchase it.
The SonoFlash was first unveiled at Euronaval in 2018. The French defence procurement agency awarded Thales a contract to “develop, qualify and manufacture” the SonoFlash. Since then, the program has made progress, with Spain’s S. A. Electronica Submarina agreeing to integrate the new Thales SonoFlash sonobuoy on their acoustic sonobuoy processor in 2021.
Thales’ Sono-Flash is based on Thales Australia’s Barra Sonobuoy System, a standardized Type A sonobuoy that is roughly 1 m long and 10 cm in diameter.