It’s a MAD World in Anti-Submarine Warfare

By Richard Sterk, Senior Defense Electronics Analyst, Forecast International.

Consider by many to be “old school” technology, magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) remains a reliable tool in anti-submarine warfare. MAD systems have often been associated with submarine detection and overlooked as a possible solution for land-based surveillance and detection. Several conflicts around the globe have demonstrated the need for enhanced detection capabilities.

CAE Inc is in the process of reducing the size, weight, and power requirements of its existing MAD system, the airborne ASQ-508(V) Advanced Integrated MAD System (AIMS), to expand its use to other applications.

The ASQ-508(V) AIMS consists of a highly sensitive magnetometer with associated electronics mounted in the tail area of an aircraft to minimize magnetic interference. The magnetization of a submarine produces a magnetic variation or anomaly in the Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetometer, which senses changes in the total magnetic field, detects components of the submarine dipole field that are aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field. This magnetic anomaly can be visualized by plotting the signal amplitude in the vicinity of the submarine’s position. The anomaly surface has from one to three maxima or minima and varies in shape with the orientation of the submarine magnetic dipole relative to the Earth’s field. The intersection of the aircraft path with the anomaly surface is the MAD signal generated by the encounter. The amplitude of the signal decreases with the inverse third power of range between submarine and magnetometer.

The ASQ-508(V) was built upon the ASQ-504(V) technology base. It is considered an upgraded and enhanced version of the ASQ-504(V). However, a number of hardware and software changes to the amplifier computer and the detecting head have resulted in a greatly enhanced MAD system, which warranted a change in the nomenclature.

The changes to the ASQ-508 are internal; hence, it retains its physical dimensions, making upgrades possible without further modifications to the aircraft.

Analysis indicates that ASQ-508(V) AIMS orders will average 12 units per year over the next decade and dwindle down to replacement units in years 2023/2024, given current market conditions.

It is interesting to note that magnetic anomaly detection has traditionally been associated with submarine detection and overlooked as a possible solution for land-based surveillance and detection. Operations in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan – as well as ongoing conflicts in Africa – have demonstrated the need for enhanced landmine detection capabilities. Accordingly, CAE has been evaluating the potential use of MAD technology for the detection of concealed metal objects on land. Mounted on some type of ground vehicle or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a MAD system could detect a variety of targets, such as armored vehicles or artillery.

The MAD system is capable of detecting metallic objects behind walls, buried underground, or hidden in dense forest canopies.

Among recent developments, CAE has developed the MAD-XR (Magnetic Anomaly Detection-Extended Role), which is a MAD sensor with lower size, weight, and power requirements than the standard ASQ-508A, allowing MAD to be extended to other applications and smaller platforms, such as UAVs, light helicopters, and small fixed-wing aircraft.


Forecast International’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Forecast tracks a market that is undergoing profound change as ASW tactics and technology adapt to an era of ill-defined undersea threats. Anti-Submarine Warfare Forecast presents a series of detailed reports on the technologies available for countering the submarine threat. These include the sensors available for detecting hostile submarines and the weaponry available to prosecute those contacts once made. For more details click here.

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