Technology for defense

(By TRW System group, written by the Public relations Department, 1972)

When we think of national defense, we perhaps most often think of the gigantic ballistic missile network – the Titan II and Minuteman ICBM’s that stand poised in underground silos across the country. But there are many other areas of military preparedness which, though less publicized, are just as important. Some of these, in which TRW has been deeply involved, are briefly discussed below.

Anti-submarine warfare

Many of us probably think of enemy submarines in terms of their ability to launch Polaris-type missiles at our cities and vital installations. But this is by no means their only threat.  The United States is a great deal more dependent on the sea for importing goods and raw material than most of us realize. Despite the fact that this is an age of air travel, nearly of all the cargo that flows among nations is carried by merchant ships. For these and other reasons, the U.S. navy is working very hard to develop new techniques and equipment to protect those ships against submarine attack. This complex, sophisticated, and deadly activity is known as antisubmarine warfare or ASW.

ASW is not an exact science. But it involves practically every scientific and engineering discipline – and, as you might guess by the painting from the Navy Art Collection shown below, the coordinated teamwork of carriers, destroyers, helicopters, and drones, as well as hunter-killer subs.

As essential task – and one of the biggest problems – in ASW is locate and identify the enemy. The major cause of the problem is simply that the ocean is a very good place to hide. So far, the most reliable way we have found to “see” beneath its surface is through sound waves or sonar. We can use passive sonar to listen for sounds made by a submarine’s machinery and propellers, and we can use active sonar to transmit “pings” of impulses of sound into the water and then listen for the echoes. But there are many other underwater sounds originating from weather, marine life, or other ships which hamper our passive systems; and objects such as whales, schools of fish, and seaweed can reflect our sound waves back to us as though they were lurking submarines. Furthermore, sonar generally has a relatively short range – measured in yards, as compared with radar which has a range of hundreds of miles.

Two new ASW systems which help to overcome some of these problems are the SQS-26 for surface ships and BQQ-2 for submarines. These new longer-range sonar systems greatly improve the Navy’s ability to locate enemy’s submarines. Part of TRW’s systems engineering contract on the NAVY’s ASW Program required us to provide engineering support in reviewing and analyzing this complex systems to improve their design. Once the enemy sub has been located and identified, the ASW team has an arsenal of weapons at its disposal, including torpedoes carried in the nose of rockets, torpedoes carried by aircraft and remote-controlled drone helicopters, and depth charges provided by rocket thrust.


This is a Lockheed P2V (P-2 under the new designation system) Neptune. It was an ASW (anti-submarine warfare) aircraft. Source of the photo: