The addition of an AIS capability to TRIDENT submarines will provide the ability to see commercial vessel traffic beyond the reach of conventional radar. Currently, TRIDENT submarines utilize commercial radar capable of displaying Automatic Radar Plotting Aids (ARPA) data. This ARPA data provides contact Closet Point of Approach (CPA), Time to Closest Point of Approach (TCPA), speed over ground, and position and heading of the selected target. However, this data is not available for ships hidden from view by islands, landmasses, or weather conditions that mask radar contacts.
AIS-equipped vessels can see traffic regardless of the weather and radar impairment. In addition to the basic ARPA data available from radar, AIS data can include vessel name, speed, rate of turn, draft, cargo, destination, and ETA to destination of the selected target in real time. Moreover, the information is continually updated in real time. Obtaining AIS technology will also reduce the need for radio communications, allowing the crew to concentrate on using information vice obtaining it.
Naval Submarine Support Center, Bangor (NSSC) first approached IMF about the potential of using the AIS on TRIDENT submarines in an endeavor to improve the capabilities of the Furuno secondary surface search radar, but IMF was one step ahead of them. Preliminary research on this idea had already commenced as a result of a 'Beneficial Suggestion' submitted by Ralph Reinke, a member of IMF’s SWS Navigation Support Shop.
Reinke’s research revealed that the current Furuno displays were not capable of displaying the AIS data, and that additional equipment, displays, and cabling would ultimately need to be purchased, foundations would have to be designed and installed, wire ways would need to be identified for cable runs, interfaces to existing equipment had to be established, and most importantly, approval for a new system would have to be secured.