The program key dates
The Syracuse 3 programme got underway in 2000 with the space segment and development of the Syracuse 3A and 3B satellites to meet the requirement for protected satellite transmissions. It also needed to meet the exponential growth in demand for high-data-rate, long-range communications since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the increase in overseas operations, first in Kosovo, then in Afghanistan and the Sahel region of Africa.
The French defence procurement agency (DGA) and armed forces were keen to overcome satcom's inherent vulnerability to jamming threats by adopting not only new satellites but also a transmission capability with an extremely high level of protection. This led to the development of System21, in anticipation of the Syracuse 3 ground segment. The contract was awarded to Thales, which had invested in advanced studies many years before it won the ground segment contract.
In late 2004, the DGA and the forces selected Thales for the Syracuse 3 ground segment (network system and stations). This 15-year contract initially included three capability increments to be rolled out every 18 months, and a total of almost 400 naval and land stations and terminals designed for 24/7 use in all theatres.
Since then, the Syracuse 3 ground segment has constantly evolved, based on feedback from users and in line with changes in operational requirements that would have been hard to imagine 15 years earlier.
Since 2006, the System21 protected transmission system has been qualified by NATO under STANAG 4606. This NATO qualification, and the achievements in France with the first operational deployments of the Syracuse 3 ground segment, enabled Thales to position itself on satcom programmes in the Middle East from 2007.
With its expanded international footprint and a fuller understanding of the new requirements expressed by land-based users of the Syracuse 3 system, Thales built up the wealth of experience it needed to upgrade the ground segment to all-IP technology. The upgrade was a real quantum leap in technology, and it all began with a new generation of all-IP System21 anti-jam modems, which were initially developed for international customers and later adopted by French forces.
Other technological innovations followed, such as the mobile land stations for armoured vehicles on the move (under the VENUS programme*) and use of a new Ka frequency band for internet service, which complemented the existing X band and offered a taste of what would come next with Syracuse 4.
Today, these communication capabilities are in use round-the-clock and more than 400 naval and land stations and terminals are in service with French forces. And the success story also has an international dimension, with several contracts awarded by NATO and various countries in the European Union and the Middle East. As a result, Thales is now the No. 3 worldwide and No. 1 in Europe for protected military communication ground segments.
The Syracuse 3 ground segment has more than delivered on the original ambition. It is a constantly evolving system that ties together critical communications from end to end, relying on progressive and ever closer integration between the network, transmission and station technologies to rapidly roll out capability gains for deployed forces. This continuous improvement has been achieved with no disruption to services and despite the perpetual cycle of new developments for the connected systems.
The transition from the Syracuse 3 system to Syracuse 4** is planned for 2023, and the first phases of this new programme are already underway.