Thales, acteur majeur des enjeux maritimes

New missions, new solutions  (RDN n° 794 - November 2016)
As part of the 25th edition of Euronaval, the French journal La Revue de la Défense Nationale published an article by Pierre Eric Pommelet in which the Deputy Director General, Defense Mission Systems, describes the profound changes taking place in the world of Defense and Safety and also the way Thales responds to these evolutions.

Naval defence and security issues

As economic and security challenges around the world take on an increasingly maritime dimension — and as states with regional and in some cases global ambitions build up their warship fleets — the role of naval forces is evolving, expanding and becoming ever more complex. High-intensity blue-water combat capabilities remain a key imperative for the navies of the world’s major powers. However, these types of operations have to some degree given way to force protection and support missions in littoral waters, as well as maritime surveillance, protection of sea lines of communication, maritime safety and security, and pollution prevention and control, all of which play a crucial role for our economy. At the same time, governments are working more closely than ever with industry partners that have the ability to develop the new technologies and robust system solutions they need.

Threats at sea are many and varied

Piracy is a real concern in various parts of the world, most notably the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea. Terrorism can threaten shipping in narrow corridors like the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal, and could include dramatic forms of attack such as dirty bombs hidden in containers or speedboats laden with explosives targeting critical infrastructure or large vessels.
The recent tragedies in the Mediterranean as large numbers of migrants try to reach Europe have further focused attention on illegal immigration and the related issue of human trafficking. For illicit movements of people, drugs or arms, the ocean is often the smugglers' route of choice. Dealing with these threats, across vast areas, clearly calls for state-of-the-art technologies including shore-based, shipborne and airborne radars as well as unmanned systems.

France has the second-largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world and needs to fully recognise the importance of EEZ surveillance and management. French waters, with their biodiversity and potential reserves of oil, gas and minerals, are attracting the wrong kind of attention, and not just from illegal fishing operators.
Thales Group - Pollution des océans
Pollution of marine and coastal waters is an issue of real public concern, particularly in light of recent oil spills and other disasters, and is part of the wider debate around the environmental implications of climate change such as rising sea levels and reduced fisheries resources. Solutions to mitigate some of the risks, such as vessel traffic management and anti-collision systems, also address legitimate public concerns.

Furthermore, the oceans remain an ideal place for nations to demonstrate their power during international crises caused by conflicts between states, as with Libya, or by humanitarian disasters, as in Somalia. We are seeing the emergence or resurgence of naval forces with the potential to pose a political and military threat to the established order, whether by enforcing claims on contested waters, influencing sea lines of communication or establishing maritime buffer zones. The proliferation of new types of conventionally powered submarines — some with air-independent propulsion making them virtually silent and highly effective for shallow water and littoral combat operations — is a prime illustration of this threat. Most countries that are expanding their fleets with this type of vessel are simultaneously acquiring latest-generation combat aircraft and associated air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry. With these capabilities, together with high-performance air defence systems, nations have the power to establish combined naval buffer zones and no-fly zones and effectively disrupt or prevent any coercive action by maritime forces or naval aviation.
Against this backdrop, Thales is an industry partner of choice. Thales’s capabilities span the entire naval defence value chain, from electronic equipment (radars, sonars, optronics, electronic warfare, communications) to the design, manufacture and integration of the most sophisticated combat systems.
 In the three domains of naval warfare — surface, subsurface and air — the company delivers tailored solutions for all types of missions: protection of maritime approaches, blue-water security, protection of deployed naval forces and power projection from the sea. Thales also provides an extensive array of services, from instruction and training to complete combat system upgrades, with a range of contractual models, including fleet-wide asset management.

Thales devotes almost 20% of revenues to R&D and is constantly innovating and developing new solutions to meet the specific requirements of navies and other maritime safety and security agencies. With its balanced portfolio of civil and defence businesses, Thales has gained extensive experience in areas of crucial importance to the digital transformation, such as cybersecurity, cloud computing and big data. These capabilities can be readily transposed and adapted to naval and maritime programmes.

Detect, identify, analyse and act

Thales offers a range of innovative, highly capable and dependable solutions to detect, identify and analyse threats and act accordingly. The company is a trusted partner of over 50 client navies and coastguard forces, with relationships dating back several decades in some cases, and its systems are in service on more than 500 vessels.
Protecting maritime approaches, coastal areas, ports, naval bases and offshore installations is a complex challenge because such as wide range of risks and threats need to be taken into consideration (intrusion by hostile vessels and/or aircraft, trafficking, shipping accidents, maritime pollution, etc.). The ability to detect and identify threats on the surface, under the surface and in the air is the vital prerequisite for any maritime or naval action. These capabilities are at the core of Thales’s expertise, and the company offers a range of complementary solutions, from satellites to unmanned underwater systems. The Coastwatcher 100 radar, for example, detects inflatables and other small craft at ranges in excess of 16 nautical miles and small aircraft at 35 nautical miles and beyond.

The Watchkeeper X unmanned air system (UAS) Capacities

Mission's length
Surveillance Ranges
150 km
from the coast
Areas Covering
12 000 sq.
per hour
To extend the detection range of patrol vessels, Thales has developed FULMAR X, a lightweight, catapult-launched UAV equipped with an optronic sensor. For C4ISR, the Maritime Commander solution ties together all the main command systems, sensors and operational software applications. Installed at shore bases and on surface vessels and maritime patrol aircraft, Maritime Commander guarantees the interoperability with government agencies required for state action at sea. In underwater systems, Thales offers a complete and cohesive set of technologically advanced mine countermeasures solutions to protect the approaches to naval bases and port facilities, including hull-mounted sonars, towed sonars and sonars deployed by unmanned underwater vehicles.

For blue-water operations, Thales offers a range of solutions to meet EEZ and maritime traffic surveillance requirements. The MS-100 lightweight combat management system, a specially adapted configuration of the TACTICOS* system, enables patrol vessels to conduct search and rescue, prevention of illegal immigration and fisheries enforcement missions. The larger MS-150 variant provides the capabilities required for both littoral and open-ocean operations, including maritime interdiction. The Scout Mk3 radar is designed to detect small aircraft flying close to the surface, and small surface objects, even in high sea states, making it ideal for preventing covert operations from the sea.

Operating in conjunction with this type of radar, the Vigile system monitors electronic emissions in littoral and inshore areas of a hostile state to provide a clear picture of deployments, while the Blue Watcher, Captas-1 and Captas-2 sonars can detect even the quietest submersibles in coastal and deep water environments.Fleet protection at sea calls for an effective combination of anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-air combat capabilities. The MS-300 and MS-400 combat management systems from Thales enable navies to manage all shipboard sensors and weapon systems. Thales also offers a wide variety of tailored fleet protection solutions, including the Captas-4 and Flash sonars, radars, electronic surveillance systems and optronic systems. Combining active and passive defence, Thales has designed the I-Mast solution, which incorporates radars and electronic support measures, while increasing vessel stealth.
Operations to project military power into hostile territory from the sea are among the most demanding in terms of both force protection and offensive capabilities. To protect the task force and deployed forces from all types of threats, including short-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, Thales has developed the high-end MS-500 and MS-1000 variants of the TACTICOS system, and the Smart-L EWC (Early Warning Capability) and Sea Fire 500 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars to detect and intercept supersonic cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
Thales Group - Collins Submarine

Coordinating all these capabilities is a complex task in itself.

Thales has developed C4ISR systems that allow all stakeholders to work together efficiently via networked communication tools and secure databases, and provide them with a real-time common operational picture. The Aquilon system, for example, controls all shipboard and external communications, while the CYBELS solution (CYBer Expertise for Leading Security) protects shipboard systems against cyberthreats.

Thales also offers outsourced support and training services.

These force readiness services, which help navies maintain a high level of fleet availability while reducing costs, are in growing demand. In addition to its historic role in through-life support, Thales has built up significant expertise in dockyard management, warship modernisation and shipboard system upgrades, significantly extending the operational service life of naval vessels today. Thales services also include simulator-based crew training and service-by-the-hour contracts for UAV operations to reduce acquisition and support costs for users.
Thales builds on strong relationships with customers in major countries and within the NATO alliance to provide naval and maritime forces around the world with equipment, systems and services that meet constantly evolving operational requirements.
Drawing on these world-class capabilities, the company is involved in many European programmes, including the joint Anglo-French MMCM (maritime mine countermeasures) programme and the Type 26 frigate and Queen Elizabeth carrier programmes in the United Kingdom. In France, working in close partnership with DCNS, Thales is a major player on the European FREMM multimission frigate, FTI medium-size frigate and Barracuda submarine programmes. This partnership with DCNS and the French Navy is key to the success of the company's French naval export business.

The 25th Euronaval exhibition in Paris last October was an opportunity for Thales to unveil its new naval sensors, systems, cybersecurity solutions and services to meet the full spectrum of emerging requirements, from maritime surveillance to high-intensity combat and for all types of platforms, including UAVs and unmanned surface and underwater systems.
With 20,000 engineers and €3 billion reinvested in R&D every year, Thales offers the world's most extensive portfolio of naval products and services. Constant innovation is crucial to the company ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow's naval and maritime forces.