It is the near future and France’s new medium-sized frigate is on mission in the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden keeping international shipping lanes safe. Terrorists are targeting ships with home-made drones, pirates are boarding them from speed boats, and warring regional powers are using supersonic missiles against intruders. The frigate is not welcome. It needs protection. It needs whatever it takes to see and ward off the new threats; so it, in turn, can protect others.
Fortunately, Thales’ new multi-mission Sea Fire radar, first produced in 2018 and qualified in 2020, is on board. It provides early warning of potential attacks from conventional and emerging air and surface threats using long-range 3D surveillance, horizon search, and surface surveillance. Its 360-degree coverage can track 800 objects simultaneously without saturation at a range of up to 500 kilometers in the air and 80 kilometers on the surface.
From covering its host ship and the area around it to ASTER air-defence fire control and surface-gun support, Sea Fire’s fully digital, software-controlled processing is a game-changer for radar. It gives smaller vessels the performance of much larger ones and can be upgraded to meet client needs and new threats. Benefitting from Thales’ big data and cybersecurity expertise, Sea Fire automatically adapts to an approaching object’s characteristics, from very slow moving to supersonic. Moreover, it is more reliable and robust than older systems, with four panels around the mast that can easily be maintained at sea. And it features “graceful degradation”, continuing to function even when certain modules no longer work.
Remi Mongabure, Bid Director of Multifunction Radar at Thales, emphasizes that, “Sea Fire is like the smart phone of radars. Fully digital and software controlled, it breaks with the past to create the standard of the future.”