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NAVAL TECHNOLOGY – Ultra Maritime

NAVAL TECHNOLOGY – Ultra Maritime

BY JOETEY ATTARIWALA

The Sea Lancer system provides a Low Frequency Active (LFA) Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) in a reelable single tow

Next-Gen ASW Solutions

Underwater surveillance plays a critical role in modern maritime operations and national security. It involves the monitoring and analysis of underwater activities, including the movements of submarines, surface vessels, underwater drones, and other potential threats beneath the ocean’s surface. For 76 years, Ultra Maritime Canada has worked in this domain designing, building, and delivering Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) solutions that protect service members in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and their allies.

Ultra Maritime has a long heritage of protecting navies; the company was established in 1947 as British American Instruments Ltd, which then became Hermes Electronics in 1975. In 2002 it became Ultra Electronics Maritime Systems (UEMS) and has remained this legal entity ever since. In 2022, the company was acquired by Advent International, a private equity group, which signaled the next step in its journey. Ultra Maritime’s Canadian presence is headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

NEW TECHNOLOGY

With the return of hostile forces on the global stage and a rapid advance in technology, new and greater numbers of underwater domain threats have emerged since the end of the Cold War. Customers are increasingly demanding that their suppliers help them anticipate and manage these threats, and that companies focus on holistic solutions to challenges in the maritime domain rather than just pushing a particular product or solution.

“Authentic relationships are built on more than just selling products; trust goes a long way in the defence industry, and with our customers,” said Jason Healey, Ultra Maritime’s Director of Business Development. “The Ultra Maritime team, writ large, is incredibly proud of our work — and it has never been more critical than it is today, with the ever-evolving threat to global stability.”

Since early 2023, Ultra Maritime has evolved as an independent entity, adapting to meet the changing needs of its customers, but at the core, is focused on maritime applications and delivering market-leading solutions to customers’ needs. “We strive to provide a clear focus on the maritime warfare domain to bring the breadth of our experience together into one place. Our fundamental principle is helping our customers solve the ever-emerging problems of today’s armed forces,” said Healey.

With a more regional focus on Canada, Ultra Maritime Canada re-established a dynamic, new leadership team — led by John Gallagher as Vice President and General Manager — who can focus more intently on the local market, and can better respond to customer’s requirements, demands and specific needs.

“With the new leadership team physically located in Canada, we can focus on, and quickly respond to, our Canadian customer’s unique opportunities,” Healey told CDR. “As Ultra Maritime charts a new course, we have a chance to ensure that we become a world leader in maritime defence solutions. As a result, we must continue to grow and redefine our brand. While changing our branding, we had to ensure that we transitioned in a manner that flowed with our previously existing materials and logos. Most noticeably, our primary colour scheme altered from yellow to blue, which fit our focus on the maritime domain. Our marketing materials transitioned seamlessly both within our internal organization, as well as with our customers.” 

The fundamental goal of Ultra Maritime is to become the premier ASW solution provider in Canada, the Five-Eyes nations, NATO and beyond. The company continues to develop advanced specialist systems to deliver warfighting edge in the modern maritime and underwater battlespace. These provide critical operational advantages to defence customers across surface, sub-surface, and unmanned platforms. The company has a number of products which are in use aboard RCN ships and has a suite of capabilities it is developing for Canada’s future naval fleet, and for international opportunities.

“Our customers come first, and we strive to meet their requirements and our respective commitments to them,” said Healey. “This goal is ever-evolving, requiring continuous advancement, and working with the customer to meet their requests.”

With products like the ASW Mission POD, Ultra Maritime wants to become the premier ASW solution provider in Canada

CSC – UNDERWATER WARFARE SUITE 

The future of the Royal Canadian Navy resides in the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project which will form Canada’s major surface component of maritime combat power. With its effective warfare capability and versatility, the CSC will deploy anywhere in the world, either independently or as part of a Canadian or international coalition, and that means it will need cutting-edge capabilities to handle all foreseeable threats.

Irving Shipbuilding has been contracted to build up to 15 Canadian Surface Combatant ships in its Halifax Shipyard. Having subcontracted the combat system to Lockheed Martin Canada, Ultra Maritime was awarded the Underwater Warfare (UWW) suite which will be fitted to these ships. 

To adequately prepare for the upcoming CSC program, Ultra Maritime invested approximately $20 million in its renovated Dartmouth facility. Not only did this recent investment into Atlantic Canada facilitate a significant capacity boost to the Ultra Maritime Towed Array sonar production facility, but it is attracting new engineering and manufacturing talent from all the maritime provinces and other parts of Canada.

“The team has a new sense of pride in their workplace, one of belonging and inclusion, but also a deep understanding of the desire to come to work and make a difference for our respective armed forces. There is clear excitement across the team, who are excited about the future of shipbuilding in Atlantic Canada,” said Healey.

Ultra Maritime is actively engaged with Lockheed Martin Canada in delivering this new UWW capability to the Royal Canadian Navy. The company is tasked with the design, development, and manufacture of a next-generation UWW suite which includes a Low-frequency active and passive towed array sonar system; Hull-mounted sonar; Integrated torpedo defence system; and a Sonobuoy Processing system (provided by GDMS-C).

Additionally, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force continue to use and deploy Ultra Maritime-supplied sonobuoys which are world-leading ASW sensors. Inclusive of these Ultra Maritime manufactured sonobuoys, the Royal Canadian Navy will have a robust and comprehensive underwater warfare surveillance capability. 

Three of the Five-Eyes Navies (Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom) are procuring the new Type 26 frigates, all of which will install Ultra Maritime UWW equipment. The other two Five-Eyes navies (New Zealand and the United States) also have Ultra Maritime equipment installed on their modern warships. New Zealand installed Ultra Maritime’s Integrated Torpedo Defence System (S2170 SSTD) onboard their ANZAC class frigate. In addition, Ultra Maritime is installing the Next Generation Surface Search Radar onboard every United States Navy (USN) grey hull ship. 

The ASW Mission POD is ideally suited for the RCN’s AOPS COBRA project Credit: Joetey Attariwala

SURFACE SEARCH RADAR 

Ultra Maritime’s capabilities are numerous and include the AN/SPS-73(V)18 Next Generation Surface Search Radar (NGSSR), a multi-mission software configurable radar providing safe navigation, surface search, and periscope detection. The new NGSSR combines missions of five existing radars for the U.S. Navy surface fleet, including fielded variants of AN/SPS-67, AN/SPS-73, AN/SPS-74, BridgeMaster E, and commercial-of-the-shelf radar systems, enabling standard interfaces, display, training, and sparing. NGSSR is designated for accelerated deployment as a priority requirement from the October 2017 Commander Fleet Forces Comprehensive Review related to the collisions experienced by USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald.  

According to Ultra Maritime, NGSSR improves the fleet’s detection, navigation, and situational awareness capabilities, modernizes decision support tools, and reduces watchstander workload to increase readiness.

NGSSR replaces the AN/SPS-73 / Bridgemaster E series and the AN/SPS-67 on the mast with a single standard sensor for navigation and surface search. Fully integrated into the AEGIS and the Ship Self Defense System (SSDS) combat systems, NGSSR also brings new capabilities in periscope detection, defence against fast attack craft / fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC), and cybersecurity. NGSSR delivers video distribution to Radar Displays and Distribution System (RADDS) and CANES Video Distribution System (CVDS) and interfaces with the new Navy Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), which will enhance watchstander awareness across multiple stations. NGSSR also interfaces with the Advanced Training Domain (ATD) for combat systems team training. The multi-mission, interoperable NGSSR enables safe navigation, situational awareness, and defence against surface and low-altitude air threats, keeping the U.S. Navy surface fleet, crews, and nation safe.

As a premier navigational radar, NGSSR will be fielded across the U.S. Navy surface fleet, including on all U.S. Navy surface ships, including Aircraft Carriers, Destroyers, Cruisers, Frigates and Amphibious hulls. Ultra Maritime states that the NGSSR has matured its technology through developmental testing, and full-rate production is underway at its new 40,000-square-foot radar production facility, which is manufacturing three systems a month. The first system was delivered to the shipyard in January 2022 for installation onboard LPD-29; with nineteen systems having been delivered to date. 

“The NGSSR would make an excellent addition to any multi-domain warship, supply vessel or speciality ship,” said Healey.

TOWED ARRAY SONAY CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE

As part of the Ultra Maritime restructuring, the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, facility was identified as the Towed Array Centre of Excellence, as it builds on its decade’s long legacy of manufacturing Towed Array Sonars which serve customers domestically and internationally. These state-of-the-art systems for warships and submarines offer superior detection, classification, and localisation of modern threats.

Designed to maintain a competitive edge in the face of asymmetric and evolving threats, the sonar solutions are available across a wide range of frequency spectrums, size, weight, and power constraints and are employed by military and defence research communities around the world.

Ultra Maritime’s fundamental towed array sonar discriminator is the Active/Passive inline towed array. This capability offers customers the ability to stream one sensor behind the ship for ease of use. It has a high-power active source transmit module which can send active pings into the water, and has a passive receive module to receive not only the active transmission echo returns but to also detect noise from submarines, warships, and marine mammals.

To complement Ultra Maritime’s leadership in ASW Towed Array sonars, the company is developing an ASW Mission POD / Module which can deploy each towed array payload that Ultra Maritime manufactures. These payloads include the Active/Passive inline towed arrays, the Integrated Torpedo Defence system (S2170 SSTD), and the Strategic Surveillance Towed Array (very long towed array).

The benefit of the ASW Mission POD to Navies is interchangeability as it allows Navies to do more with less.

“Today’s Navies have fewer sailors, fewer grey hulls, and sometimes inadequate budgets — although, in recent times, that has changed due to the current world climate. Capabilities like the ASW Mission POD enable Navy leadership to be creative with modular payloads on future ships,” Healey explained. “In the UK, the Type 32 was designed with modular payloads in mind. Navy leadership and fleet schedulers can alter a ship’s mission within hours simply by changing modular payloads dockside, and in cases like the Type 32, even at sea. It makes sense for modern Navies to invest in modular payloads, as such, to change mission sets from a larger ASW mission set to a humanitarian mission set, to a training mission set, to the mission set of the day.”

AOPS COBRA PROJECT

With its ASW Mission POD, Ultra Maritime is well-positioned to support the Arctic Offshore and Patrol Ship (AOPS) Containerized Onboard Reelable Array (COBRA) project. As stated, the product can house any of the towed arrays which are designed and manufactured by Ultra Maritime. This capability makes the RCN’s AOPS COBRA project very appealing to Ultra Maritime, as it can provision multiple layers of capability within a small 20-Foot ISO container, including Active/Passive inline towed arrays, integrated torpedo defence, or strategic surveillance.

“The ASW Mission POD makes a straightforward container, an excellent procurement for any Navy, and a perfect solution for the RCN’s COBRA project,” Healey told CDR.

Underwater warfare surveillance is essential for safeguarding maritime interests, protecting national security, and maintaining a stable global order. It provides the critical information required for decision-making, strategic planning, and effective execution of maritime operations in both peacetime and conflict situations. As high value assets like the Halifax-class and the future CSC ply waters of the globe, underwater surveillance and integrated torpedo defence must remain at the forefront of RCN capabilities, and that is the exact focus at Ultra Maritime.

As Canada’s only Towed Array Center of Excellence, Ultra Maritime’s decades of experience perfectly position the company to provide the next generation of ASW sonar solutions. The future for Ultra Maritime Canada appears bright, and the sense of teamwork within the global team shines through as stated by Healey: “Coming from a lengthy career in the Canadian Armed Forces, I was convinced I would never find that strong family-like bond or connection in the civilian sector, that so many military personnel grow up with after being indoctrinated into the forces. Nothing could be further from the truth; the people within the Ultra Maritime global community are some of the most dedicated, hard-working, and friendly teammates I have ever worked with, and we are committed to delivering critical capabilities to the navies of the world.”

Joetey Attariwala is CDR’s Senior Staff Writer

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