ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

2pAO3. The nation's fixed undersea surveillance assets---A national resource for the future.

Kirk Evans

NRaD, 53570 Silvergate Ave., Rm. 2025, San Diego, CA 92152-5025

Following the Cold War, the Navy's extensive undersea surveillance tracking net, SOSUS, provides an unparalleled opportunity for converting defense infrastructure into a civilian national asset. Designed to track submarines by their faint acoustic signals, SOSUS enjoyed tremendous success during the Cold War and was a major factor in the United States' dominance in antisubmarine warfare. The SOSUS hydrophone arrays in both the Atlantic and Pacific face an uncertain future of shutdowns and closings. Yet those arrays and associated signal processing provide a unique acoustic ``window'' into the deep ocean---the volume of data collected is enormous. Over the last two years some limited experiments in tracking marine mammals, detecting seismic activity, and law enforcement have confirmed a tremendous civilian potential for this data. This paper reviews the history and characteristics of SOSUS, its potential for civilian use, and calls for the conversion of unused SOSUS assets into a National Acoustic Observatory. Using modern computers and networking technology, such an observatory could provide data from SOSUS arrays for research, law enforcement, and unparalleled synoptic pictures of marine mammal and seismic activity. However, to make this a reality will take the timely and cooperative efforts of defense, civilian agencies, and universities.