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In this paper, the passive sonar detection problem is considered in terms of a signal to noise model. From this model, the passive sonar equation is developed and examined. This examination considers the physical phenomena represented in the model in order that the significance and interaction of the model parameters can be understood. From this, it is seen that the sonar design engineer has limited influence in improving sonar performance because of physical limitations beyond his control. These limitations are mostly due to the variability of the target, the ocean background, and own ship noise. Several aspects of these limiting factors are discussed in terms of sonar performance in the real ocean. This is done to show that the designer must consider these limitations even though he has no control over them.