In a world where technology is generating increasingly sophisticated weapons and a raft of new threats, such as the worrying proliferation of advanced ballistic missiles, defending a country’s airspace is no easy task. And these same technological leaps mean that defence systems, like radar, are constantly evolving and ever-more software reliant. To counter threats for the long term, the Netherlands has moved decisively to put in place new, cutting-edge radars on the ground and for ships.
Aware of the changing landscape, the Netherlands’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) was clear about its requirements: it didn’t just need a capable system, but a system that would be fully available—24/7—in a role where failure is not an option.
To find the right solution, the MOD naturally turned to Thales, which has a strong record of systems support for the Netherlands’s armed forces—often spanning decades. The ministry had already taken the view that its core business was operating its systems—not tying up large amounts of resource to upgrade or maintain them. It was a position that made perfect sense: aside from the challenge of holding spare parts inventories and maintaining sizeable in-house teams that could keep pace with rapidly changing technologies, partnering with a global specialist—with decades of servicing experience—offered strong potential for efficiency gains.
In 2015, the MOD and Thales announced a 15-year partnership for the delivery and support of four SMART-L Multi-Mission radars with an early-warning-capability for the Royal Netherlands Navy, and the delivery and support of two SMART-L ground-based systems for the Royal Netherlands Airforce.
Service provision comes in many forms: it can range from simple ‘on-demand’ arrangements, right through to full performance-based logistics (PBL) contracts—where the provider takes full responsibility for ensuring system availability. It was Thales’s ability to offer this last model that made it the partner of choice. While PBL contracts aren’t new, their use for something as critical as radar is groundbreaking—and requires seamless relations and high levels of trust.
Thales and the customer worked closely to ensure the long-term needs were met. The requirement for 24/7 availability, so critical to national security, was paramount. Innovative techniques were included, like predictive maintenance based on Big Data analytics, as well as a dedicated and secure 24/7 hotline. As systems supplier, Thales has already gathered large volumes of data on performance-affecting variables—and ongoing collection will be used to refine the algorithms, enabling operability issues to be prevented rather than merely solved.
The overall result? A solution that perfectly meets customer needs. The deployment and comprehensive maintenance of advanced radar—to protect the Netherlands’s airspace well into the future. And, just as importantly, the country’s navy and air force are free to focus on their core role of defence—secure in the knowledge that their equipment will remain fully operable, mission relevant, and able to fulfil its vital 24/7 role.