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Swimmer Detection

QinetiQ’s swimmer detection system, Cerberus360, is to be evaluated this summer by the US Navy under a contract issued by the US Department of Defense.

Like many other military and civilian authorities, the US Navy is concerned about the threat posed to their ships and ports by small boats or terrorist divers and swimmers armed with explosives. Two Cerberus360 systems, which automatically detect, classify and track underwater threats and allow operators enough time to take action, have been shipped to the USA this month.<br>
Following successful customer demonstrations last month at its Bincleaves site in Dorset, UK, QinetiQ has received further interest from around the world. The system has already proved effective in tropical waters after an evaluation trial in the Far East in 2003.<br>
Intelligence sources have reportedly raised concerns about Al Qaeda links with a Dutch scuba diving school and recent incidents have highlighted the vulnerabilities of ships and coastal sites to attacks of this nature. In March 2004 Hamas frogmen attacked an Israeli beachfront guardpost from the sea and in April 2004 oil rigs off the Iraqi coast were targeted by a number of small boats. The US Navy suffered the loss of 17 sailors when the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen in October 2000 and the Sri Lankan Navy lost a number of vessels in 1995 when Tamil Tigers used suicide divers to attack ships.<br>
The distinctive Cerberus360 sonar unit currently provides diver detection at ranges of around 800 metres. This would allow up to 25 minutes to react to a trained diver swimming at between 1 and 2 knots. Cerberus360 can be deployed as a single unit to provide 360ø cover for ship protection by being slung from the side of the vessel. Alternatively, a number of units can be attached to the seabed in a cordon to provide harbour security and channel protection. Deployed in this manner, the detection range is extended to one kilometre and beyond.
Looking forward to the US Navy trial, Jon Riddle, QinetiQ’s marine security products sales manager, said: "We are delighted at both the performance levels we have achieved and the level of global interest that Cerberus360 has generated. It will provide a potentially life-saving tool in the fight against terrorism. A single terrorist diver equipped with a low-cost and low-tech payload could cause huge loss of life and significant military or economic disruption. Cerberus360 works automatically, unobtrusively and, vitally, provides the range necessary to allow time to deal with the threat."<br><br>
The main technical challenge in safeguarding ships and harbours from such threats has been the difficulty in locating a human diver because of the lack of a strong sonar target return. Extremely limited underwater visibility greatly reduces the effect of underwater surveillance techniques relying on cameras operating in the visible band. Cerberus360’s detection capability represents a significant step forward in tackling this challenge, the makers claim.<br><br>
Target classification is also provided, enabling operators to decide on an appropriate response. The sonar return provided by the target when using Cerberus360 is detailed enough to allow the identification of distinctive human features at distances approaching 500 metres. The operator can therefore distinguish between the potential terrorist human diver and similar sized mammals (like sealions or dolphins), reducing false alarms.<br>
QinetiQ advocates a layered defence of ports and harbours, designed to protect against a variety of different threats and at different ranges.


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