The Pentagon says it could lose a key weapon for tracking Chinese and Russian submarines because it might no longer have a reliable supplier, Defense News reports.
ERAPSCO, the Ultra Electronics Holdings and Sparton Corporation joint venture that provides the U.S. with sonobuoys, is dissolving in 2024. ERAPSCO has been developing products for the U.S. Navy since 1987.
Without government investment in the market, the U.S. will be without the sensors, which are key for U.S. anti-submarine efforts.
DoD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews told Defense News the Pentagon requires "comprehensive individual production lines . . . for the five sonobuoy types, but that both companies would "require assistance to establish independent production lines."
"Due to the significant efforts and expenditures, it is unlikely that either the JV partners (or any other entity) will be independently able to make the necessary investments to develop and produce the required sonobuoy demands by 2024," Andrews said, adding "DoD intervention into the market is necessary."
Per Defense News, the Pentagon wants to purchase 204,000 sonobuoys in its fiscal 2020 budget request. In 2018, it purchased half that amount.
Eric Chewning, a senior U.S. Defense Department official who manages industrial policy, told Defense News the lack of suppliers is an "acknowledged weakness."
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