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Thales and Airbus have been contracted to deliver a new joint tactical signals intelligence (SIGINT) system to enhance French signals monitoring, direction finding and spectrum analysis capabilities, the companies announced on 11 February.

The 10-year contract will provide the armed forces with a common information system and set of sensors, and is designated a high-impact programme, alongside CONTACT and SCORPION, in France's defence spending plan. This joint tactical SIGINT system will provide France with an expanded tactical electronic support measures (ESM) capability.

The tactical SIGINT programme will upgrade the EW capabilities of front-line units, providing a set of high-performance portable or vehicle-mounted assets compatible with the latest communications technologies. The new system to monitor and localise enemy communications will support tactical manoeuvres in the theatre of operations, helping in force protection. It will equip the electronic support vehicles of the Army's 54th Signals Regiment, the Navy's front-line warships and the ATLANTIQUE 2 maritime patrol aircraft, and could be deployed to protect air bases on military operations overseas.

The system will be the only one of its kind in service with French forces, all of which will rely on the same logistics infrastructure to simplify training of specialist operators and optimise through-life support delivery. Thales will draw on its SIGINT expertise, developed in several legacy programmes: COHORTE (the current French Army tactical SIGINT system), MINREM (French Navy SIGINT system), ARCHANGE (French Air Force new-generation SIGINT aircraft) and CLOVIS (interministry strategic communications). Thales will also build on its capabilities in end-to-end communications, radio communications and communications security. Airbus will provide expertise in strategic ELINT systems, drawing on experience in programmes such as RAMSES (strategic radio and satellite communications) and PARADOS (radio signal acquisition sensor). These systems are currently in operational service with France's defence intelligence agency (DRM) and the armed forces. Airbus will also draw on its complex-systems integration and security know-how.

The first phase of the programme will provide the three armed forces with an initial operational capability for signals monitoring, with subsequent optional tranches to significantly increase the number of units in service. New functions (new data analytics, expanded detection and technical analysis capabilities, etc.) will be added incrementally over the term of the contract, to provide a modern set of EW systems and capabilities.

"As risks evolve and expand, reliable intelligence is an essential element of sovereignty and a strategic asset for operational decision-making, force protection, territorial integrity and civil security,” explained Marc Darmon, Executive VP, Secure Communications and Information Systems, Thales.

"Our armed forces face an increasing number of threats and need to rely on ever-expanding volumes of data," added François Lombard, Director of the Intelligence business at Airbus Defence and Space. "Combined with aerial and satellite imagery and other sources, these new electronic intelligence capabilities will make it possible to identify these threats, and above all to characterise them with significantly greater precision.”

The 10-year effort will significantly enhance and modernise EW capabilities for all three French armed forces. (Image: Thales)

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