Tag Archives: Thales

The World According to Shephard: Week 51

As 2017 draws to a close, everyone here at Shephard has been celebrating a record year and Beth Maundrill took a look at some of the highlights from the past 12 months.

Read of the week:

After the Korea Coast Guard (KCG) was forced to confront Chinese fishing boats early this week Gordon Arthur takes a look at the mounting tensions between the two nations. The incident saw KCG personnel fire 249 warning shots after a fleet of 44 Chinese boats was spotted operating within South Korea’s EEZ.

Unmanned intrigues

It has emerged that the Bangladesh Air Force is seeking to join the ranks of nations operating MALE UAVs after releasing an RfP for a system that would comprise three to four aircraft. The armed UAV’s maximum range will be 1,000km with a payload capacity of at least 120kg. Chinese and Turkish manufacturers are expected to be the primary bidders for the contract.

Boeing has released additional details relating to its MQ-25 unmanned refuelling tanker bid. According to Boeing the UAS is completing engine runs before heading to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations early next year.

The UK MoD is also looking to procure new UAS, as it seeks to enhance its ISR capabilities with 14 tethered UAS platforms. The contract is valued at £2 million and is expected to commence in March 2018 and run for two years.


Heli Highlights

This week Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor prototype successfully completed its first flight. The aircraft can be seen taking off and flying at a low altitude in a short video released by Bell. The data from the maiden flight will now be reviewed before the aircraft undergoes future tests.

In Kuwait an investigation has been ordered into a 41.1 billion deal to buy 30 military helicopters from France. An article in the French Marianne magazine sparked the investigation after reporting that a middleman had demanded tens of millions of euros from Airbus as a commission.


Building cyber ramparts

The proposed acquisition of Gemalto by Thales indicates efforts to increase its cyber security offering. Thales follows a host of high-profile defence primes that have already increased capability and added clients in the cyber security market through acquisitions.

Meanwhile Raytheon has developed an immersive cyber security training system that has been designed for individual and collaborative training as it has its eye on the US DoD’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment requirement.

The World According to Shephard: Week 48

This week has demonstrated that the world of military simulation is very much alive and flourishing as the Shephard team has spent the week in Orlando bringing you all the latest news from the industry’s annual meet. You can find all of the coverage from I/ITSEC here.

Armed to the hilt

The US Air Force’s MQ-9 Reapers are to get an ammunition boost with the integration of small diameter bombs onto the platforms. General Atomics was awarded a $17.5 million contract to kit out the UAS with GBU-39Bs.

Meanwhile the H145M will begin live fire tests of Airbus Helicopter’s HForce weapon system loaded with Thales’ FZ275 laser guided rockets. The new live fire tests follow on from successful ballistic development testing of the system.

BREAKING: New Block 5 MQ-9 debuts in combat

‘The secret of war lies in the communications’

Napoleon’s tools of communication may have looked dramatically different from today’s but their importance on the battlefield has not changed. Last week saw Thales demonstrate its new family of Software Defined Radios, Synaps, which they believe represents the future of ‘collaborative combat’ for the modern connected military.

Australia has approved Project Land 200 Tranche 2 as the country pushes to digitalise its armed forces with a new battlefield command system for the army. The system will enable commanders to plan, monitor, direct and review operations in real time.


Shipbuilders back in business

The second of the Mexican Navy’s updated Oaxaca-class patrol vessels has been commissioned into its fleet. This comes at the end of a year that has seen the navy’s fleet expanded considerably with new patrol vessels as significant investments have been made in the country’s critical infrastructure and shipbuilding capability.

Meanwhile in Indonesia the shipbuilder PT Palindo Marine launched a 110m OPV designed for the country’s coast guard agency. Indonesia has been developing its indigenous shipbuilding expertise and is soon likely to see the navy’s seventh landing platform dock begin construction.


Saab Kockums has begun construction on parts of the hull for the Royal Swedish navy’s new A26 class submarine. Saab is also upgrading the RSN’s Gotland-class submarines with a new combat management system and other capabilities which will be carried across to the A26.

How to solve a problem like drones

The European Parliament and European Council reached an informal agreement this week to introduce union-wide rules on the civil use of unmanned systems. The design and manufacture of UVs will have to comply with EU basic requirements on safety, security and data protection.

Also in Europe, Endeavor Robotics has delivered 44 FirstLook UGVs to Germany as the company continues to enjoy a bumper year. The UGV, which can be dropped from 16ft onto hard surfaces without sustaining damage, is used by a wide range of civil, parapublic and military customers around the world and has won a number of large contracts with the US.



The World According to Shephard: Week 44

NATO SOF prepare for battle

NATO special operations forces have taken part in an exercise across eastern Europe  involving scenarios loosely based on recent Russian incursions into Ukraine. The exercise was designed to enable NATO and non-NATO entity special forces to counter an invasion by an enemy force as well as ‘diversionary’ forces.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hosted its ThunderDrone Prototype Rodeo, the culmination of the first in a series of rapid prototyping events that began in September. The results are expected to go beyond the physical drone with its mechanical features, autonomy, swarming and machine learning all being explored.


Swarms of unmanned requirements

The Australian Army is also enhancing its aerial unmanned capabilities with the procurement of FLIR Systems’ PD-100 Black Hornet 2 nano-UAVs. The deal will increase the Army’s Black Hornet fleet to over 150 providing enough to equip every army combat team at the platoon and troop level with an organic reconnaissance capability.

The US Navy’s requirement for an unmanned Carrier-Based Aerial-Refuelling System has hit a bump in the road after Northrop Grumman withdrew from the MQ-25 Stingray programme following changes to the programme requirements. There is a risk that further changes could see other competitors to follow suit.


Meanwhile in Israel the country’s first commercialised AUV, the HydroCamel II has completed over 250 hours of sea trials in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the system’s developers at Ben-Gurion University, the AUV’s autonomy and manoeuvrability capabilities set it apart from its competitors.

Watching the ships roll in

Above sea the Ukrainian coast guard is bolstering its fleet by purchasing up to 25 new high-speed patrol boats. The acquisition is part of Ukraine’s strategy for maritime security at each seaport to be ensured by a squadron of boats including unmanned patrol boats, a patrol attack boat, a high-speed interceptor, a coast guard boat and a new trimaran.

However in the UK the Royal Navy found itself in hot water this week after the National Audit Office published its investigation into equipment cannibalisation in the navy. The report found that between April 2012 and March 2017 there was a 49% increase in the practice with 60% of instances occurring between 2016 and 2017.

Picture are, on the left RFA GOLD ROVER, and on her right HMS LANCASTER sailing together on Atlantic Patrol Task (South) duties.

In Poland it has emerged that the Polish Navy may be forced to decommission its only Kilo-class submarine, ORP Orzel after a fire broke out on the boat. The fire is believed to have begun while crew members were discharging the submarine’s batteries while moored in the north of the country.

The digital battlespace

Moving into the digital world where the defence industry may be on the brink of a revolution as blockchain service providers  report increasing levels of interest from the industry. While the exact nature and extent of the impact blockchain will have remains uncertain, it is clear that this technology is here to stay.

Meanwhile Thales is in the process of analysing logged data from the recent Formidable Shield ballistic missile defence exercise to see if modifications made to its SMART-L Multi Mission radar can further enhance the technology. During the exercise the radar was able to detect the missile from a distance of 1,500km.


In the race to advance electronic warfare capabilities the US is expediting efforts to field technology into theatre that enables critical vehicle systems to remain functional in GPS-denied environments. GPS signals are increasingly vulnerable to jamming or spoofing by adversaries such as Russia who are actively deploying advanced EW capabilities.


Malaysia’s defence industrial base: a work in progress


The AV4 prototype was built in Thailand, the next 19 will be built by DefTech in Malaysia.

Not as easy as it looks

The DSA exhibition this year had little that was brand new. The highlight was the unveiling of the prototype AV4 4×4 MRAP from Thai company Chaiseri, which everybody knew about anyway.

DefTech also displayed some new variants of the AV8 8×8 vehicle including the Anti-Tank Guided Weapon with the LCT30 turret and one with a remote weapon station.

But really the news was that Malaysia is finding the development of a fully working domestic vehicle manufacturing base harder to establish than may have been expected. The rest of the offerings were upgrades to existing vehicles.


The ATGW variant of the AV8. Only 27 of the IFV 25mm variant have been delivered so far instead of 40. About 60-70 are due this year.

This does not really come as a surprise, to start building new vehicles, particularly specialist military platforms such as MRAPs and 8x8s is not easy, it takes years of R&D and pulling together the skilled individuals to do the work.

It has come to light that the manufacturing of the AV8 8×8 vehicles by DefTech are going a bit slower than expected. The Turkish company in partnership with DefTech is FNSS, which provided the first 12 vehicles, may have to step in to help build more chassis to meet a very demanding delivery schedule for 2016 and for the next three years.


The GK-M1 vehicle with Starstreak on the Light Missile Launcher on the back. The system has still not been fired on the vehicle yet.

Elsewhere Global Komited, the Weststar subsidiary, is still in the testing stage for its GK-M1 vehicle based on the Toyota Hilux vehicle with the Starstreak missile on a Light Missile Launcher from Thales mounted on the rear. The vehicles are destined for the Malaysian navy and air force and were first displayed two years ago at the DSA2014 exhibition.

Starstreak has been tested in Malaysia but progress is slow. But at least Malaysia is making an effort to establish a more sophisticated industrial base and it will reap the rewards over the long term.


Now you see it… Starstreak missiles on the RapidRanger launcher fitted to the roof of the URO Vamtac 4×4

One amusing piece of show gossip was that the Vamtac 4×4 vehicle on the stand of Spanish manufacturer URO was initially seen to be sporting the Starstreak missile on a Thales RapidRanger launcher mounted on the roof the day before the show opened.


Now you dont… Starstreak is gone! And a hastily attached logo applied.

But when the doors opened on day one the Starstreak missiles were gone and the labelling on the launcher was covered up instead with the name of URO’s local Malaysian partner Destiny. The reason behind this seems to be that Thales’ partner in Malaysia to deliver the Starstreak system is supposed to be Global Komited. They must have taken umbrage at seeing the system they are providing on someone else’s vehicle alongside another Malay company.

Clearly words were said and the missile hastily removed from the URO vehicle.


The reason URO had it on their vehicle is because they are providing their Vamtac ST5 to Indonesia fitted with Starstreak on the RapidRanger mount in partnership with local Indonesian firm PT Len.

However, the Malaysian Army also uses the Vamtac but instead it is fitted with the Igla air defence missile. It is possible in the near future that they might want to move over to using Starstreak to match the GK-M1 vehicles that are being acquired by the navy and air force.

Down & Out in Le Bourget

The Quill or Capture team always tries to do its best, we really do. But for some reason, covering the annual defence/aerospace show in Paris each year always results in many moments of amusement/disaster.

So, in the tradition of last year’s Eurosatory top ten, we give you the unadulterated truth about the Paris Air Show.

51eme salon international du Bourget. Visite officielle du president de la republique.The François Hollande experience

Chaos hit the Pairs Air Show first thing Monday morning – and before the Quill or Capture team even reached Le Bourget. The roads were manic (validating our excellent decision to walk to the site rather than bus it) with the imminent arrival of the French President, François Hollande.

Whistles were being blown, traffic was being directed – poorly – and the place was a semi car park. The motorcade that arrived was something to behold.

While at the show the madness ensued and one reporter had51eme salon international du Bourget. Visite officielle du president de la republique. the misfortune of being at France’s largest defence company’s pavilion as the president swept in.

Surrounded by a horde of reporters, TV crew, security, and other hangers-on, he entered the pavilion, had a gander at things and was on to the next thing before you could say Watchkeeper. Then everyone relaxed and resumed normal duties. It was quite the experience – oh, and he’s a lot shorter than he appears on TV.

The coffee bomb

One Quill or Capture staff reporter was on video duties for the air show and managed to make it through most of the week without incident, which is surprising for the reporter concerned.

However, a long week running around with camera and tripod eventually took its toll. One of his last tasks of the show was to interview the French Army’s NH90 test pilot. Tired, and a little sweaty, the dishevelled reporter was offered a strong French coffee at the NH Industries’ chalet. It was gladly accepted with the knowledge that it would perk him up for the coming interview.

The young waiter handed over steaming hot coffee in a cup and saucer. With one hand gripping his trusty tripod, the reporter excitedly took the coffee in his spare hand.

But the sunburn, the exhaustion and dehydration had taken over by this point and in an effort to put the saucer down to add some sugar, the whole thing spilled over the drinks 2015-05-20 13.44counter. No part of the counter was spared and even the waiter, in his crisp white shirt, was splashed with coffee. It was at this point the clumsy videographer was escorted outside and, safe to say, was not offered another drink.

Dinner in the dark

An often under-appreciated perk of the industry can be the after-hours dinners, functions and events where the hacks get a chance to meet industry reps on neutral ground and talk shop. This is a time when reservations are made and people behave perhaps more as they might in the real world, rather than keeping professional decorum foremost in the mind.Flir view of paris

Now imagine how free one of the Quill or Capture team felt when combining this with the apparent anonymity of dining in the dark. And you might imagine what drove one redoubtable member of the press corps to recite several verses of Hamlet to an unseen but no less present audience, bringing silence to what was once a noisy arena and now hushed with the solemnity usually reserved for more formal occasions.

Death by parasol

On the final day, the Quill or Capture team made its way back to Le Bourget for a last bit of filming and some schmoozing. While watching the air display and keeping up some social media duties at a company’s media chalet – we won’t name names – life flashed before the eyes of one reporter.

A gust of wind had lifted one of the weighty umbrellas from the main chalet next door into the air, did a summersault in the air and proceeded to land right on top of the unlucky journalist.

The StandOne of the company’s press relations team was at her aid straight away – probably thinking he had just inadvertently sacrificed a reporter to the air show gods. The poor reporter had a bit of a fuzzy sensation, but on reflection can’t be 100 per cent sure that was the knock to the head or the champagne.

The Quill or Capture air show awards

Among the multi-billion dollar orders, new programme launches and innovations on display at the Paris Air Show, for the discerning journalist there were also some important questions to answer.

Which company has the best media chalet, who is providing the best breakfasts and where is the best place to steal a moment with a glass of wine?

So, obviously without wishing to overly trivialise the serious nature of the aerospace industry, ahem, the Quill or Capture hospitality awards go to:

  • Best media chaletAribus Photo Paris Le Bourget

Normally a tough category but made a lot easier this year by the number of companies which stayed away. The Quill or Capture team sampled many chalets during the week but for the sheer ability to always find somewhere quiet to work, the award goes to Thales and its well-catered chalet right on the flight line.

  • Best breakfast

Another one that is normally hotly contested but that saw fewer serious candidates vying for the top spot this year. The runway winner was Bell Helicopter and its bacon and sausage bap, complete with English brown sauce – although this did result in our esteemed editor doing his best Ed Miliband impression during the F_46ff9b62281f91302d6dd0aac2c7547554dc816e5a9b3interview with Bell CEO John Garrison.

  • Best lunch

After a week of rich French food, you start to crave something a little spicy. The organisers of the Singapore Air Show provided the solution in their chalet in the form of an amazing Asian spread. Sometimes noodles are the best answer.

  • Best wine

While we can’t say we sampled every bottle available on ever chalet (hic), the selection at the CAE chalet was ‘pretty impressive’, in the words of Quill or Capture’s resident wine expert. The selection included an amazing Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux, a bottle of which is now securely stashed in the bottom of one editor’s wardrobe.

Looking into the future

Only the weekend stands between us and the Paris Air Show. Whether you are fully prepared or, like some, looking at the Le Bourget site map in dismay, there are a number of future concepts on offer at the show this year.

First, Airbus is bringing out its E-Fan electric operated aircraft after a successful appearance at Farnborough Air Show 2014efan flight.

The company has dubbed the E-Fan the ‘future of air transportation’, claiming the technology has potential to be used in helicopters as well as fixed wing aircraft.

The demonstrator aircraft is going to be followed by production versions, including  a two-seat version, E-Fan 2.0, for basic pilot training, followed by the E-Fan 4.0 for the general aviation market, which will have four seats.

The company has in mind an aircraft with up to 100 seats (will this be the E-fan 100.0?) and there are hopes for the 2.0 to be sold some time in 2017.

Whether we are close to having fully electric powered helicopters or not is up for debate. It certainly is a possibility for manufacturers to keep in mind, and I’m sure somewhere work has already started.  After all, some were sceptical that electric cars would catch on, but they have, kind of, in a hybrid kind of way.

Also, revealed via twitter, MBDA will be showcasing a new missile concept for 2035. The Flexis video shows a particularly futuristic model where the missile is launched from a combat aircraft. Obviously it is then shown blowing stuff up.

It will be interesting to see what the company has in mind for the next 20 years of missile development.

Any details beyond that are yet to be revealed, although the company did hint that the target aircraft in the video was possibly a J-20.

Finally, there’s the Thales Stratobus, something of a cross between a satellite and a drone. Thales says that it could provide a future solution for observation, mapping and telecommunications (both civil and military).stratobus_plateforme_geostationnaire_thales

On-board energy is provided via a solar concentrator inside the balloon and a reversible fuel cell, while the ring around the Sratobus allows it to rotate so that it is always facing the sun.

The airship will operate at an altitude of around 20km and be able to carry a 200kg payload. The company hopes that it will be rolling out the Strotobus towards the end of 2020 – which used to feel pretty far into the future, but it’s only five years away now.

That’s just a titbit of what you’ll come across next week at Paris Air Show. Now all we can do is pray to the aviation gods for good weather and hope to see you there.