Satellite communications are a crucial part of Thales’s defence business. Our space business builds the satellites, and our networks operations provide ground segment solutions for land, air and naval forces. Today, our market leadership in France gives us a strong footing in export markets, particularly in the Middle East and NATO countries.
Since the 2000s, Thales has been providing secure satellite communications for the French armed forces, in particular equipping the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, nuclear submarines, FREMM multimission frigates and other frontline vessels in service with the French Navy. We also provide satcom solutions for French Army deployments in remote theatres of operations including Afghanistan, Libya and Mali.
Thales long-range communication solutions keep deployed units connected with the home country at all times so they can interact with their operations centres and commanders — and stay in touch with their families when they're not on duty. Specifically, they can provide commanders with local situation reports, receive orders and intelligence information, and stay as agile and effective as possible in the field.
Secure long-range links
Security is a key issue with military satcoms. And one of Thales’s key areas of expertise is providing fully functional satcom kits that are designed from the outset to provide all the necessary protection from jamming threats and cyberattacks.
The French Navy operates around the globe and was the first Thales customer to upgrade its platforms with a long-range satcom capability to stay in constant contact with command centres. Naval forces always need to communicate on the move, but they’re not subject to the same demands as land forces. Land vehicles in bumpy terrain constantly need to change speed and direction, and mountains can block conventional radio signals, leaving units exposed and potentially cut off from the outside world. To meet these demands, Thales launched a research programme in 2004 aimed at developing a new military satcom solution specifically for land vehicles. And in 2009, to meet an Urgent Operational Requirement for the French Army, this solution was installed on armoured vehicles on deployment in Afghanistan.
Tomorrow's standard equipment
No one imagined just how successful the system would turn out to be, or how many soldiers' lives it would save in remote mountainous regions.
Today, feedback from the frontline has opened up new prospects for the future. The French MoD now plans to fit all new armoured vehicles with a Satcom On-The-Move system from Thales as part of its Scorpion programme.* And the same system is expected to be installed on key aircraft such as the Rafale and the MRTT tanker plane by 2023-25.
*Read the story: “How an Army land vehicle became a satellite hub”.