French Ministry of Defence selects Thales for CONTACT programme

Thales is to sup­ply French armed forces with next-gen­er­a­tion air and naval tac­ti­cal radios with faster trans­mis­sion speeds, enhanced secu­ri­ty and extend­ed inter­op­er­abil­i­ty.

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The first tranche of devel­op­ment work for the CONTACT pro­gramme is val­ued at €263 mil­lion.

The French defence pro­cure­ment agency (DGA) offi­cial­ly noti­fied Thales of the award of the devel­op­ment con­tract for the CONTACT pro­gramme on 21 June. This strate­gic pro­gramme is designed to equip the major­i­ty of the French forces’ plat­forms with next-gen­er­a­tion tac­ti­cal radios incor­po­rat­ing inno­v­a­tive soft­ware-defined radio tech­nol­o­gy.

“We are very proud to have been select­ed to design and build a com­plete the­atre com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem com­pris­ing future air and naval tac­ti­cal radios and asso­ci­at­ed wave­forms, which will give French forces the joint com­mu­ni­ca­tions capa­bil­i­ties they need to accom­plish their mis­sions effec­tive­ly,” said Luc Vigneron, Chair­man & CEO of Thales. “The CONTACT pro­gramme is strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant for the French armed forces and key to France’s nation­al sov­er­eign­ty, and it also pro­vides a sol­id frame­work for the future devel­op­ment of soft­ware-defined radio at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el.”

Net­work-cen­tric oper­a­tions hinge on the abil­i­ty to move ever-increas­ing vol­umes of infor­ma­tion between all the play­ers in the bat­tle­space. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems are there­fore cen­tral to this trend and have a key role to play in the crit­i­cal deci­sion chain, espe­cial­ly in com­plex envi­ron­ments and multi­na­tion­al coali­tion oper­a­tions.

To accom­mo­date this grow­ing com­plex­i­ty, six Euro­pean nations—Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden—launched the ESSOR project (Euro­pean Secure Soft­ware defined Radio) in 2009. ESSOR aims to estab­lish a base­line stan­dard for devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of mil­i­tary soft­ware-defined radios in Europe. An ESSOR ref­er­ence archi­tec­ture has been defined and shared between the Euro­pean part­ners, com­pat­i­ble with the U.S. SCA stan­dard, and a coali­tion high-data-rate (HDR) wave­form has been devel­oped to pro­vide the basis for a new stan­dard.

The CONTACT pro­gramme will there­fore draw on a foun­da­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tion archi­tec­ture stan­dards and on the Euro­pean wave­form devel­oped by the ESSOR part­ners to guar­an­tee inter­op­er­abil­i­ty. Soft­ware radios and wave­forms devel­oped with­in this frame­work will meet new require­ments with high oper­a­tional val­ue as armed forces tran­si­tion to the digi­tised bat­tle­space and increase their reliance on C4I, video trans­mis­sions and oth­er val­ue-added ser­vices dur­ing multi­na­tion­al oper­a­tions.

Future CONTACT radio prod­ucts will be field­ed with the French Army, Air Force and Navy, pro­vid­ing faster trans­mis­sion speeds, bet­ter secu­ri­ty and height­ened inter­op­er­abil­i­ty. They will be inter­op­er­a­ble with the com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems of oth­er nations to sup­port coali­tion oper­a­tions.

These prod­ucts will be inter­op­er­a­ble with the PR4G wave­form, thus assur­ing upward inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with PR4G radio equip­ment cur­rent­ly in ser­vice.

This con­tract award is a fur­ther endorse­ment of Thales’s defence com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­o­gy and will sus­tain the company’s world-class exper­tise in the field of tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions. With CONTACT, Thales has con­sol­i­dat­ed its world­wide lead­er­ship in defence com­mu­ni­ca­tions and now has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to repeat the export suc­cess of its PR4G sys­tem (more than 150,000 radios in ser­vice in 40 coun­tries).

Devel­op­ment work will be car­ried out main­ly in the Paris region and at Cho­let, and all the man­u­fac­tur­ing will be con­duct­ed at Cho­let and Brive.