Sources close to the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) attending the Singapore Air Show have told MONS that the service’s two Transporter Allianz C-160G Gabriel Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) gathering aircraft are flying equipped with L3 TRL Technology’s Smartscan Marlin Communications Intelligence (COMINT) system. Open sources state that the Smartscan Marlin is capable of gathering COMINT regarding the Thuraya, Inmarsat and IsatPhone Pro Satellite Communications (SATCOM) networks. This can include the geolocation and interception of voice, data and fax transmissions. Although it appears that these networks cannot be monitored simultaneously, the Smartscan Marlin operator is able to switch between networks, or employ multiple Smartscan Marlins to monitor all three networks simultaneously. When used with a laptop, the Smartscan Marlin user can monitor and record voice calls, while also displaying data such as SMS (Short Message Service) traffic and faxes, while the Smartscan Marlin’s software can also decrypt email and internet activity across all three networks.

Although MONS’ source declined to divulge when the Smartscan Marlin was installed on these two aircraft, it is possible that this occurred during the upgrade of both platforms over the last decade. Thales was responsible for upgrading the aircraft’s overall SIGINT capabilities with the upgrade commencing in 2009 and concluding in 2011. This initiative was specifically focused on enhancing the aircraft’s ability to locate and eavesdrop on radio communications, plus its electronic intelligence performance as regards the location and analysis of radar emissions. The entire programme was reported as costing $37.1 million in 2014 prices.

Thomas Withington



The French Air Force’s C-160G Gabriel SIGINT gathering aircraft are believed to carry the Smartscan Marlin. (Photo: Jeff Wode)

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