The AN/SQS-53 is the most advanced surface ship ASW sonar in the US Navy inventory. It is a high-power, long-range system evolved from the AN/SQS-26CX, used actively and passively to detect and localize submarine contacts. The SQS-53B, located in a large dome at the bow of the ship, will detect, identify, and track multiple underwater targets. With its higher power and improved signal processing equipment, this sonar is the first in the Navy to be linked directly to digital computers, thus ensuring swift, accurate processing of target information. Functions of the system are the detection, tracking, and classification of underwater targets. It can also be used for underwater communications, countermeasures against acoustic underwater weapons, and certain oceanographic recording uses. The analog receivers of the AN/SQS-53A/B hull mounted sonars are being upgraded to digital by the use of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) processors, and are redesignated SQS-53D.
This system is the basic sonar watchstanders tool to keep an eye on all traffic; often picking up surface ships at greater range than most radar systems. It can detect, identify and track multiple targets and is the first USN surface ship sonar designed specifically to interface directly with a vessel's digital computers. It has three active modes of operation; Surface duet, Bottom bounce and Convergence zone. The number of Third World countries that can employ wake-homing torpedoes from short ranges (Littoral Warfare) has grown steadily since the end of the Cold War. Sensors such as the AN/SQS-53C/D will be able to detect these platforms before they are able launch these weapons. It is also used to ping off of buoys for own ship location purposes in a foreign port.The ASW Advanced Development Project provides the advanced development demonstration and validation of technology for potential surface sonar and combat system application. Efforts focus on resolution of technical issues associated with providing capability against the year 2000 and beyond threat with emphasis on shallow water/littoral area USW and on dem/val of Integrated Undersea Warfare (IUSW-21) concepts and technology. Key technology areas being investigated include active sonar transmissions, signal and advanced processing, active sonar classification, towed and hull arrays and transducer technology, multi-static sonar, and multi-sensor data fusion. The major near-term effort is development of a mid-frequency Towed Active Receive Subsystem (TARS) prototype which will function as a deep receiver adjunct for the SQS-53 transmitter, thereby providing significantly enhanced submarine detection performance against deep submarine targets. FY 1999 and subsequent efforts will focus on major technological and performance thrusts for Undersea Warfare which will define surface combatant USW capability for the Navy in the next century (IUSW-21).