Skip to main content

Thales and RAF to continue information exploitation partnership

The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed its continuing partnership with Thales to support and develop its primary information management system for air operations.

Information exploitation is crucial to maintaining a competitive edge over potential rivals and the UK MOD’s Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Mission Support System (ISTAR MSS) has long been the backbone for Royal Air Force information management. A new, five-year contract signed in April confirms and extends the longstanding relationship between the UK MOD and Thales to provide this capability, under the new name “Multi-Domain Mission Support System” or MD MSS.

MD MSS exemplifies the UK’s investment in transformative and digital capabilities to enable the nation’s Armed Forces to obtain and exploit information at the operating speed of relevance. 

Alex Cresswell, CEO and Chairman, Thales in the UK, said: 

We are delighted to be continuing our strong relationship with the RAF and we are very proud that MD MSS continues to be the RAF’s mission system of choice for its air platforms.

No other MOD digital solution provides the same functionality and information sources, which spans mission planning and intelligence in an end-to-end all-encompassing solution.

The £47 million contract with global defence technology provider Thales assures the system’s availability as well as its evolution to meet future challenges. In addition to repairs and maintenance through a helpdesk facility, a key element of the contract is the spiral development of MD MSS, adding new, user-prioritised capabilities and technologies in agreement with the customer’s lead agency, Defence Equipment and Support (MOD).

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said:

This £47 million investment will enhance the MD MSS capability and offer further protection across our air and maritime platforms, exploiting data to provide a battle-winning advantage.

A prime example of British innovation, this vital technology will support highly skilled jobs in the UK.

Thales began providing operational information technology to the RAF in the 1980s. However, the capability and technology of MD MSS has advanced beyond recognition since it was first developed to manage acoustic information gathered by the Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Information is delivered to aircrew and ground-based planners via a flexible architecture, making the system suitable for use on a wide range of air platforms, from the Chinook helicopter to the F-35B Lightning combat aircraft.

Continued investment in MD MSS will serve to enable wider multi-domain integration and drive further joint inter-operability and digital transformation. With the ability to exploit the right data at the right time in a constantly changing operational environment, its agile, interconnected, and data-driven capabilities unlocks the digital potential of information-centric technologies for future force multipliers, such as the Future Combat Air System. In the maritime sphere, MD MSS can also be used onboard the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales to support air operations by the Carrier Strike Group.

The latest contract will secure 150 jobs at Thales in the UK. This includes a team of 40 Software Engineers based in the company’s Templecombe facility in Somerset as well as the Field Service Engineers supporting 19 ground locations in the UK and overseas.

“ISTAR MSS has previously been delivered through the Thales product AirScape. To reflect recent changes to the requirement, both the MoD programme and Thales product will now be aligned under the name “Multi-Domain Mission Support System” or MD MSS”

All images ©Crown Copyright