Identification of Friendly Submarines

How do submarines differentiate between Friend and Foe?

The Identification of Friendly Submarines (IFS) functionality enables Alliance’s maritime forces to perform underwater identification procedures among submarines as well as between subsurface and surface and/or air units.

Similar to NATO’s above water Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) system, IFS primarily assists NATO maritime assets in the rapid and positive identification of friendly submarines. Until now no equivalent identification standard exists in the underwater domain.

In order to establish and maintain a recognised underwater picture, submerged vehicles have to be detected, localised, tracked, classified and identified. After initial detection, further contact data must be gathered to determine the status, to estimate the potential threat, and to eventually make timely decisions if required. In the case of a positive suspect contact, the classification, particularly the discrimination between friend and foe, is mandatory and vital.

By employing IFS, a submarine could automatically and instantly signal its identity to friendly forces in order to prevent blue-on-blue engagements. IFS improves situational awareness and supports Water Space Management.

The Military Committee Maritime Standardization Board (MCMSB) has requested the COE CSW to develop the relevant NATO standardisation documents. The final product, a NATO Standardisation Agreement (STANAG), will be available in summer 2017.

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