From Syracuse III to Syracuse IV
On 14 June 2019, the defence procurement agency officially launched the ground segment component of France’s Syracuse IV military satellite programme, awarding Thales a first major contract for the network management systems and naval satcom stations. Decisions on new mobile terminals for land vehicles and aircraft are pending.
The Syracuse IV programme will replace the Syracuse 3A and 3B satellites currently in orbit and provide an expanded and upgraded network of ground stations. A constellation of two satellites has been ordered under the first phase of the programme, to be built by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space. The first satellite, Syracuse 4A, will enter service in 2021. A third satellite is expected to come on stream in about 2028.
This upgrade will significantly enhance the performance of the satcom network in terms of the number of connected platforms, resistance to jamming, flexibility of deployment and bandwidth availability. Maximum data rates will rise from a few hundred megabits per second to several gigabits per second, boosting capacity by a factor of 10.
Satellite communications are crucially important for our forces and for the development of European military cooperation. As a pioneer in this field, Thales is helping the armed forces to gain and maintain operational superiority while building momentum within French industry.
Syracuse IV will benefit from Thales's satcom experience on two levels — in space-based systems through Thales Alenia Space, and in ground-based systems through the systems expertise amassed by the Group since 2004 as prime contractor for the Syracuse III* ground segment. The Thales solution will be built around the System21 highly secure transmission system and the dedicated management system already in service today with various countries in Europe and the Middle East.
The NATO-qualified System21 guarantees the availability and confidentiality of all communications and meets the need for spectral efficiency and high throughput in all types of electronic warfare threat environments: jamming, interference, interception, detection and cyberattacks.
A complex ecosystem
Military satcom systems require comprehensive expertise across multiple disciplines, as well as the ability to operate in difficult conditions caused by unintentional interference within the electromagnetic spectrum, for example, or by sudden variations in throughput related to extreme weather or environmental factors.
This calls for complete integration between all the different technologies —transmission, networks, encryption, radio, antenna, hardening and utilities — and between the corresponding disciplines and skill sets. Optimising satcom captability in terms of volume, environmental constraints, throughput and security ultimately needs to take all these different disciplines into account.
The odyssey continues
Deploying a space-based system is more like planning a city than building a house! It takes meticulous coordination and the flexibility to adapt as deployment contexts and operational requirements evolve. This is why it is so important to align the development of network systems on the one hand, and satcom stations on the other, to ensure long-term cohesion and integration and make the right trade-offs to secure future evolutions.
This coordinated approach will help ensure continuity of services from Syracuse III to Syracuse IV and guarantee on-time delivery of the programme.
Just 15 years ago, French exports of military satcom networks stood at less than €10 million a year. Thanks to this strategy, that figure is now ten time higher, and France has exported systems worth more than €1 billion over the last decade.