The pan-European defence manufacturer Thales has won a seven-year long contract from Naval Group to perform through-life support for the French Navy’s fleet of eight FREMM frigates, ensuring the operational availability of the vessels.

The FREMM programme – a joint project between France and Italy – launched in 2005 and is one of the major components of France’s anti-submarine warfare capability.

Equipped with Thales sonars, radars, optronics and communication systems, the frigates have good range, endurance and high performance.

The frigates are 140m in length and 20m wide with a 6,000 tonne displacement. The ship can hold 108 officers and crew.

Thales’ FREMM capabilities

Thales is responsible for the development and supply of the French FREMM surveillance and communications suites. Under this latest contract, Thales will specifically ensure the day-to-day availability of their on-board systems and sustain their operational capabilities over the long term.

These systems include Thales’ Artemis infrared search-and-track (IRST) system and the Herakles 3D S-band multifunction surveillance and fire control radar for the frigates’ anti-air weapons systems.

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Artemis is based on medium-wave staring focal plane arrays and uses multiple static sensor heads rather than mechanical scanning. Herakles has a range of 250km against air targets and 80km against surface targets.

The upgradeable high-performance combat system by Naval Group and Thales is based on a high-speed data network. The combat system architecture enables the French Navy to integrate future weapon systems into the frigates.

Ensuring continued use of the systems

The intensive deployment of warships and their systems puts added pressure on every component of a naval force. The operational availability of France’s FREMM vessels is a key factor in maintaining the country’s naval capabilities.

Naval Group and Thales are also setting up an integrated centre of expertise drawing on the specialised know-how and capabilities of both companies. To troubleshoot and resolve technical subjects quickly and efficiently, the centre’s dedicated multi-disciplinary team will constantly monitor the technical performance of the Thales equipment and provide a rapid response capability at all times.

Thales will ensure proactive component obsolescence management to further enhance the agility of the FREMM technical support teams, analysing system status on a regular basis to identify potential supply chain issues and speed problem resolution by experts from Naval Group and Thales.

This surety builds on Thales’ expanding responsibility for the Italian Navy too. At Italy’s La Speiza naval base on the Ligurian Sea, the navy has established an “integrated services centre” for Thales to manufacture sonar technologies for submarines. This centre will provide maintenance of sonars installed on minesweepers and FREMM frigates – which the Italian Navy also use.