Sonartech Atlas

Sonartech Atlas is an Australian sonar company undertaking development and support of a range of acoustic processing and related products for the Australian and global market. As the Australian entity of the Atlas Elektronik Group they also handle the delivery and support of products from the broader Atlas Elektronik group into Australia and New Zealand.

Sonartech Pty Ltd was established in 1987 delivering the first Ping Intercept Passive Ranging Sonar (PIPRS) system to the Royal Australian Navy the following year. The company went on to develop other sonar processing systems for the Oberon Class Submarines. By the time the last of those Submarines was decommissioned they employed a fully networked and distributed sonar suite, designed and built by Sonartech, for the processing of the Distributed, Flank and Towed Array.

Sonartech was considered by many to be the world leader in passive ranging sonar technology It was this experience and reputation that first drew the then STN Atlas Elektronik’s attention, who were in the process of extending the passive intercept capabilities of the sonar component of their ISUS combat systems. This interest in incorporating Australian technology led to the establishment of Sonartech Atlas Pty Ltd as a joint venture, between Sonartech Pty Ltd and STN Atlas Elektronik GmbH (now Atlas Elektronik GmbH), in 1998.

This partnership would see the development of a new generation acoustic intercept and ranging sonar, referred to as IDRS (Intercept, Detection and Ranging Sonar). This sonar has now been fully integrated into Atlas’ ISUS 90 combat system and is installed in a range of different countries’ submarines around the world.

At the time the joint venture was established STN Atlas Elektronik GmbH had a wholly owned subsidiary in Australia, STN Atlas Australia, which handled the introduction and post sales support of Atlas products into the Australian market. In 1999 STN Atlas Australia was shut down with Sonartech Atlas taking over responsibility for supporting the existing Atlas Systems in Australia.

In parallel Atlas Elektronik established a relationship with another Australian SME, Acoustic Technologies, engaging them to adapt and/or develop sonobuoy processing systems for use in other offshore markets. Acoustic Technologies was founded in 1989 to provide acoustic analysis and sonar systems for the Australian and international defence markets. Through collaborative efforts with the Department of Defence and industry, Acoustic Technologies developed world standard, cost-effective, active and passive sonar processing, recording and analysis systems for submarine, surface and airborne military platforms.

In 2006 the relationship with Acoustic Technologies was advanced to the next level with the purchase of the company as means of surety of supply. Two years later the St Leonards facilities of Sonartech Atlas and the Pennant Hills facilities Acoustic Technologies were brought together in a newly fitted out facility at Macquarie Park, New South Wales.

Neither Sonartech, Sonartech Atlas nor Acoustic Technologies was involved in the original build program for the Collins Class Submarines. Sonartech Atlas was however, a significant supplier of sonar processors for the Collins Combat System Augmentation program and between them Sonartech Atlas and Acoustic Technologies provided the majority of the sonar functionality upgrades under the Collins Replacement Combat System program.

Today, Sonartech Atlas is considered a leader in the field of passive intercept sonar and sonobuoy processing and is actively engaged in the ongoing Research and Development of a wide range of acoustic processing applications and associated systems. The Company has well developed design expertise in the areas of open systems, analogue and digital circuit cards, signal processing algorithms, and man machine interfaces. With a proven range of distributed and embedded processing products using a range of COTS and purpose built hardware and software infrastructure. The company is now established as the ‘centre of excellence’ in the Atlas Group for high frequency intercept sonars, airborne systems and acoustic analysis systems at both the tertiary and secondary levels.

Whilst the company is well known for its range of passive intercept and sonobuoy processing systems it has a much wider portfolio of products which includes Flank and Towed Array processors, acoustic recording systems for ships, submarines and aircraft, and secondary and tertiary analysis systems. A number of these systems are in current use within Australia and/or around the world.

The Atlas Elektronik Group extends beyond Australian shores including entities from around the globe focussed on the development and delivery of systems for naval and maritime environments, other Group entities are:

• Atlas Elektronik. The lead entity of the group and a leading systems supplier in the field of naval electronics. The company is best known for its systems and effectors in the submarine and mine warfare domains, however the range extends well beyond this. The product range includes sonar arrays, sonar processors, sensors, combat management systems, subsystems and effectors for surface and submarine platforms across the spectrum of naval operations.

• Atlas Hydrographic. Has a long standing history in the field of hydrographic equipment, which continues today with the design, manufacture, sales and support of hydrographic survey systems to customers around the world. The company offers complete integrated survey sensor systems (IS³) with single and/or multi-beam echo sounders, sub-bottom profilers and auxiliary sensors as well as data acquisition and post-processing software.

• Atlas Maridan. Founded in 1993, Maridan was one of the pioneers of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) technology. The company’s position as a key player in military and non-military AUV development continues today with the company extending vehicle capabilities and expanding the mission packages. The extended product range will continue to utilise Maridan’s modular hardware and software concepts, whilst increasing the diving depth meters and endurance.

• Atlas Elektronik UK. Formally the Underwater Systems division of QinetiQ in the UK, this Company has experience as both a Prime and Sub contractor in the Naval and Maritime Systems domain, working for the Government and Defence Industry in the UK, and around the world. In its previous guise the Company was the leading research and development entity for the UK MOD in underwater systems. It has proven skills in the design, development and implementation of comprehensive, tailored naval solutions for customers, with key competencies covering sonar, combat management systems, underwater communications, mine warfare and unmanned underwater and surface vehicles.

• Atlas Maritime Security. Is a relatively new subsidiary which brings together the maritime safety and security systems operations. The company provides technologically innovative, high-quality systems for the security, protection and safety of maritime assets and equipment, examples of this equipment is found in the Vessel Traffic Systems, Port Management and Information Systems, Integrated Harbour Security and Coastal Surveillance Systems around the world.

• Hagenuk Marinekommunikation (HMK). HMK has been in the communications field since 1899. HMK is a well known major supplier of internal and external communication systems for naval and ground-to-air applications, across the frequency range from VLF/HF to SHF. HMK’s product line, proven abilities in communications system integration and system know-how has seen HMK supply radio communications systems to navies throughout the world.

Atlas Elektronik has established subsidiaries based on their ability to contribute to the Groups larger goals, rather than just contribution to the bottom line. Atlas Elektronik maintains a standing requirement that group entities must be viable businesses in their own right with an in-house engineering capability and their own product line. There is no place in the organisation for headquarters funded ‘shop window’ or sales offices. This fundamental aspect of operation has resulted in about 35% of Sonartech Atlas’ income now coming from export sales and this will continue to increase into the future. This allows the core capabilities in acoustics to remain resident in the country of origin, without having to bear the full cost of sustaining it. This is particularly the case in Australia with the benefits available to the ADF with only a portion of the cost borne by the taxpayers.

Sonartech has worked or collaborated with all but the newest of the other entities within the group and these interworking relationships will continue into the future. The most recent example of this collaboration is the incorporation of Sonartech Atlas’ acoustic range systems and capabilities into the Groups Acoustic, Magnetic and Tracking product range, with opportunities for these products being pursued in a number of overseas markets.

Sonartech’s inclusion in the Atlas Group has brought exposure and opportunities previously unattainable to an acoustics focussed SME in Australia. Sonartech staff have participated in discussions and working groups with allied forums in the international stage, something that is normally only the domain of the larger ‘multi-nationals’.

A common issue for SME’s is the inability to provide staff with a longer career progression with many leaving the company to pursuer opportunities with other larger companies. Sonartech has been able to combat this to a degree by offering staff the opportunity to work in group entities around the world in areas of acoustics or systems engineering not undertaken in Australia. This brings together the experience of working overseas with the opportunity for individuals to broaden their knowledge and experience. This approach is also of benefit to the Atlas Group as the repatriation of theses skills enhances the groups ability to conduct work in localities ‘remote’ to the core project.

The Australian joint venture [Sonartech Atlas], and the Australian acoustics industry capability for that matter, has benefitted greatly from the association with Atlas Elektronik, with Australian sonar processing now on submarines around the world. The company is looking to extend this success into other areas, using the skills within Sonartech Atlas to extend its acoustics product line.
Sonartech Atlas’ products and capabilities are now a fundamental part of the Atlas Groups global strategy, a clear demonstration that original intent of incorporating Sonartech capabilities into the global supply chain has been achieved.

Sonartech ATLAS Pty Ltd
Level 2, 6-10 Talavera Road
Macquarie Park NSW 2113
Office: +61(0) 2 8484 7400
Fax: +61(0) 2 8484 6144

APDR at a glance