Navy vessels get Thales digital situational awareness system

Thales is to upgrade a large proportion of the Royal Navy’s surface vessels with a fully digitised situational awareness system.

Using a variety of inputs, including satellite data, it effectively acts as an adjunct to analogue radar and provides better signal in congested operational maritime theatres.

The recent contract, worth more than £10m, represents the culmination of a six-year research programme in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence.

‘They identified that there was a potential issue developing with the ingress of communications signals into the radar band (such as 3G and 4G); the prevalence of complex emitters (such as multi-function radars); and the introduction of low-probability of intercept (LPI) emitters,’ Richard Streeter, head of product policy at Thales Naval, told The Engineer. ‘This effectively prevents them from seeing smaller amplitude, potential threat emitters.’

The new system will allow greater situational awareness in dense radar environments found in congested maritime theatres.

HMS Daring, the first of the Type 45 destroyers, has now entered operational service fitted with new digital antennas as part of the surveillance system.

‘The initial deployment on the Type 45s utilises the same concepts and algorithms as the solution being deployed to the whole fleet,’ said Streeter. ‘The main differences between the implementations is how the equipment integrates with the existing equipment and the platform, the level of productionisation of the solution and the operational capability the solution provides generally.’

Being largely software-driven, the digital system maximises the use of commercial off-the shelf hardware, which according to Thales makes it more reliable, easier to maintain and lowers the total cost of ownership.

‘This digital approach almost completely eliminates the need for a traditional radio frequency front-end. The system uses a very low unique part count and this means the spares package is small and lower cost,’ Streeter added.