For naval forces, the ability to communicate over long distances is crucially important. First and foremost with command centres and between vessels on deployment and forces in remote theatres, but also with families back home. As part of their operations, all vessels need secure, high-data-rate communication capabilities so they can share the ever-increasing volumes of data gathered by radars and other sensors.
And submarine forces need specific types of communication systems that are very fast, discreet and optimally tailored to their environment and missions.
The need for seamless connectivity
Joint operations and collaborative combat call for seamless connectivity between naval forces and with other forces and their command centres.
Specially designed to meet the constraints of integration on surface vessels and submarines, Thales satcom stations and terminals meet these requirements. Connected to satellite communication systems, our secure solutions take account of the need for rapid access, highly available communications, optimal use of satellite resources and protection from cyberthreats.
Specially adapted for naval environments
Whatever the weather conditions and sea state, the stations integrated by Thales have a high-precision three-axis stabilisation system that ensures they’re always pointed right at the satellite.
Our stations are also designed to withstand the constraints of military environments, such as shocks and vibrations caused by heavy gunfire during a conflict.
On a submarine, there’s a further constraint: the station’s telescopic mast is always submerged in water, even when retracted. So, it must be able to operate at huge pressures during deep dives.
The antenna is protected by a radome. So, the challenge is to design radomes that can withstand these pressures, but that are also thin and transparent enough to allow the electromagnetic signals transmitted to the satellites to pass through.
Naval solutions integrator
One of Thales’s other key strengths is our ability to ensure compatibility between satellite communications and all the other systems on a ship or submarine. As an integrator of satcom systems on naval vessels, we manage the engineering and installation of satcom stations as well as their operational compatibility with the other onboard systems, especially electronic warfare.
On a large surface vessel, for example, we systematically installed two antennas to avoid any masking effects caused by the topside infrastructure when changing course. We can even install four-antenna configurations.
Antenna technology is moving forward, enabling satellite transmission capabilities with multiple frequency bands, including X, Ka and others. They’re also evolving to keep pace with the various types of satellite constellations, like Syracuse and other European programmes, and take account of how they’re responding to cyberthreats.
Thales provides end-to-end protected and secure satellite communication systems in France and is a global supplier of protected transmission solutions, with our System21. We integrate satcom stations with systems on all types of naval platforms — from the smallest patrol vessels to the largest aircraft carriers, as well as submarines.
Synergies in a global market
Operating in this market for more than 20 years, Thales is capitalising on its experience and constantly developing technical innovations for France, with export versions for numerous other countries.
For example, we designed a first station for submarines developed for the French Navy in the early 2000s. We then offered an export version for small surface vessels sold to other navies.
This kind of interaction works both ways, too. Thales developed stations for conventional submarines for South Korea and the Netherlands. In return, the French Navy benefited from these advances when its own vessels were upgraded.
This virtuous cycle of innovation and development opens up new opportunities for Thales as a recognised player in protected and secure satellite communications — opportunities in France, with Syracuse, and in other countries in Europe and the Middle East, as well as with NATO.
Radio ‘dead spots’ are a real and present danger for military forces in remote or mountainous areas, preventing communications with command centres and other units. Satellite solutions offer an answer.