Coastal Border Control Using Magnetic Field Signatures

  • A. F. VermeulenEmail author
Part of the NL ARMS book series (NLARMS)


The present chapter is about coastal border control for threats entering the coastal waters under the water surface. This threat consists mainly of covertly operating submarines. Acoustic sensors are commonly used for the detection of these submarines, as illustrated by the recent (renewed) deployment of networks of acoustic sensors by several Asian nations. However, acoustic conditions in shallow (littoral) water are relatively poor and this increases the importance of other sensors to detect the entering submarine. We review technology for detecting submarines by exploiting their magnetic field signature. Detection of submarines by their magnetic field signature is not new. For example during World War I the first inductive loops were installed on the seafloor in front of English harbours to detect German submarines. A line of mines laid near or in these loops could be triggered after detection of an enemy submarine. In World War II induction loops were used by the Allies to protect about 50 of their harbours worldwide, but all loops were dismantled after the war. Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) from maritime patrol aircraft was introduced in World War II, it was commonly used during the Cold War, and remains an important sensor in modern anti-submarine warfare. Nowadays portable underwater magnetic barriers and swarms of long-endurance UAVs equipped with MAD are a realistic scenario. Is it not time to reconsider induction loops in the control of the underwater coast line, and in particular the entrance to harbours? What is the order of magnitude for the detection thresholds of these systems? Does an optimal geometry exist for the induction loop for harbour control? Which sources on board the submarine are related to the magnetic signature, and which level of variation of the recorded signature can be expected? These questions will be addressed in the present chapter by using open sources and some basic calculations.


Magnetic field signature Harbour protection Induction loop Submarine detection Surveillance system 


  1. Ball D, Tanter R (2015) The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japanese Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities. ANU Press
  2. Baynes T (2004) Making Submarines Magnetically Silent. Magnetics Business & Technology Winter 2004, p 16Google Scholar
  3. Bekers DJ, Lepelaars ESAM (2013) Degaussing System Design Optimization. Proceedings of the 8th International Marine Magnetics Conference (MARELEC)Google Scholar
  4. Benedict JR (2005) The Unravelling and Revitalization of U.S. Navy Antisubmarine Warfare. Naval War College Review, 58(2),
  5. Birsan M, Tan R (2016) The Effect of Roll and Pitch Motion on Ship Magnetic Signature. Journal of Magnetics, 21(4): 503–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen Y, Feng J, Minhui Z (2005) Detection methods of submerged mobile using SAR images. Proceedings of the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS’05), Vol 3: 1717–1720Google Scholar
  7. Chen Y, Yuan J (2015) Methods of Differential Submarine Detection Based on Magnetic Anomaly and Technology of Probes Arrangement. Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Materials Engineering and Computer Sciences (IWMECS 2015): 446–449Google Scholar
  8. Choi NS, Jeung G, Yang CS, Chung HJ, Kim DH (2012a) Optimization of degaussing coil currents for magnetic silencing of a ship taking the ferromagnetic hull effect into account. IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, 22(3): 419–422Google Scholar
  9. Choi NS, Jeung G, Jung SS, Yang CS, Chung HJ, Kim DH (2012b) Efficient Methodology for Optimizing Degaussing Coil Currents in Ships Utilizing Magnetomotive Force Sensitivity Information. IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 48(2): 419–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Christian RJ (2007) Next-Generation Undersea Warfare and Undersea Distributed Networked Systems. Report No. NUWC-NPT-TR-11. Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport, USAGoogle Scholar
  11. Daniel DCF (2007) ASW and superpower strategic stability - three years on. Report No. 8-89, Naval War College, Newport, USAGoogle Scholar
  12. Holmes JJ (2006) Exploitation of a Ship’s Magnetic Field Signatures. Synthesis Lectures on Computational Magnetics # 9, Morgan & Claypool Publishers, Denver (
  13. Holmes JJ (2007) Modeling a Ship’s Ferromagnetic Signatures. Synthesis Lectures on Computational Magnetics # 16, Morgan & Claypool Publishers, Denver ( Scholar
  14. Holmes JJ (2008) Reduction of a Ship’s Magnetic Field Signatures, Synthesis Lectures on Computational magnetics # 23, Morgan & Claypool Publishers, Denver (
  15. Jeung G, Choi NS, Yang CS, Chung HJ, Kim DH (2014) Indirect Fault Detection Method for an Onboard Degaussing Coil System Exploiting Underwater Magnetic Signals. Journal of Magnetics, 19(1): 72–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kemna S, Hamilton MJ, Hughes DT, LePage KD (2011) Adaptive autonomous underwater vehicles for littoral surveillance. Intelligent Service Robotics, 4(4): 245–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kim DW, Lee SK, Kang B, Cho J, Lee W, Yang CS, Kim DH (2016) Efficient Re-degaussing Technique for a Naval Ship Undergoing a Breakdown in Degaussing Coils. Journal of Magnetics, 21(2): 197–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kopp C (2010) Evolving ASW Sensor Technology. Defence Today, 8(5): 26–29Google Scholar
  19. Maskell DM (2001) The Navy’s Best-Kept Secret: Is IUSS Becoming a Lost Art? MA thesis, USMC Command and Staff College, Quantico
  20. May D, Wren GG (1997) Detection of submerged vessels using remote sensing techniques. Australian Defence Force Journal, 127: 9–15Google Scholar
  21. Moline MA, Oliver MJ, Orrico C, Zaneveld R, Shulman I, Watson J, Zielinski O (2013) Bioluminescence in the sea. In: Watson J, Zielinski O (eds) Subsea optics and imaging. Woodhead Publishing Series in Electronic and Optical Materials, pp 134–170 ( Scholar
  22. Raveendra Varma RA (2014) Design of Degaussing System and Demonstration of Signature. Reduction on Ship Model through Laboratory Experiments. Physics Procedia, 54: 174–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ross R, Bosklopper JJ, van der Meij KH. (2012) Operational merits of maritime superconductivity. Physics Procedia, 36: 985–988CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ross R, Meijer CG, Hunik R (2013) Maritime superconductivity perspectives. IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity 23(3): 3601405–3601405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Somsen OJG, Wagemakers GPM (2015) Separating Permanent and Induced Magnetic Signature: A Simple Approach. Proceedings International Conference on Electronics, Information and Communication Engineering (ICEICE 2015): 1556–1559Google Scholar
  26. Walding R (2006) Indicator loops and anti-submarine harbour defence in Australia in WWII. Journal of Australian Naval History 3(1)Google Scholar
  27. Young HD, Freedman RA (2004) University Physics with Modern Physics, 11th edn. Addison Wesley, BostonGoogle Scholar
  28. Zhang M, Wang J (2017) Microwave scattering from submerged object induced wake over rough sea surface. Proceedings of the 32nd URSI GASS meetingGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser press and the authors 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Netherlands Defence AcademyDen HelderThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations