A Canadian spy plane picked up regular 'banging' noises in the search area of the missing OceanGate submersible days after it vanished in the Atlantic on June 18, 2023 with five passengers aboard and a limited supply of oxygen.
The Canadian Air Force deployed a Lockheed CP-140 Aurora to carry out underwater sonar searches in the hope of locating a 21-foot submersible that disappeared near the wreckage of the sunken Titanic - just as military pilots would do if they were hunting a submarine.
The long-range patrol aircraft deployed sonobuoys above the ‘distress position’ about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland where the submersible, Titan, was last seen. A ‘banging noise’ was repeatedly detected days after the vessel went missing - and at once point the noise carried on every 30 minutes for at least four hours - although it wasn’t immediately known where the noise came from or what it meant.
Here’s what you need to know about the Lockheed plane and some of the technology utilized to find the Titan submersible and its five occupants, lost within an hour and 45 minutes into their dive.
What’s the Aurora spy plane used for?
The spy plane is a long-range patrol aircraft used for maritime and overland intelligence, anti-terrorism operations, surveillance and reconnaissance, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, strike coordination, and search and rescue as well as combating drug trafficking and other operations.
CP-140 is Canada’s designation for Lockheed’s P-3 Orion maritime patrol craft, the same type of craft developed for the US Navy. It is designed to detect and destroy new-generation stealth submarines.
Avionics & weapons
The Joint Rescue Coordination Center said the Aurora offers ‘surface search and sub-surface acoustic detection capabilities’. So what’s on board?
The CP-140 Aurora is reportedly equipped with Wescam MX-20 Electro-Optical/Infrared system, a magnetic anomaly detector generally used to track submarines from an aircraft, Applanix DSS-439 digital mapping camera, hand-held camera, Airborne Imaging Radar Systems, and gyro-stabilized binoculars.
The Aurora is armed with Mk 46 Mod V torpedoes which can strike high-performance submarines within a range of about seven miles. The CP-140 also carries signal chargers, smoke markers, and illumination flares. Other equipment and systems include an Electronic Support Measures system and sonobuoys.
What are sonobuoys?
Sonobuoys are expendable sonar systems dropped or ejected from an aircraft conducting anti-submarine warfare or underwater acoustic research. They are generally five inches in diameter and three feet long and float on the water with a radio transmitter that communicates with the aircraft. One or more hydrophone sensors and stabilizing equipment descend below the surface of the water and relay acoustic information via UHF/VHF radio to operators on board the aircraft.