A new contract – worth nearly £2 billion – will ensure the long-term availability and resilience of critical assets used by Royal Navy ships and submarines over the next 15 years.

Announced by Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, on his first visit to His Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport, the Maritime Sensor Enhancement Team (MSET) contract with Thales UK will aim to provide full availability of the equipment that is the eyes and ears of the Royal Navy. 

“Utilising data technology, including AI and virtual reality to be more proactive and predictive maintenance systems, the contract will see the Royal Navy maximise the days they are ready to deploy. The contract will support sonar – our ability to hear underneath the water – masts, periscopes and also electronic warfare equipment that enable the Royal Navy to detect and target potential threats. Crucially, by increasing the longevity of our sensor and sonar capability, it will significantly increase equipment availability which is critical for the Continuous at Sea Deterrent (CASD) and wider ship and submarine capabilities. Touring the naval base and speaking with Royal Navy sailors and civilian staff, Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, thanked the workforce for the incredibly important role they play in maintaining UK security, particularly at a time of heightened global tensions.” 

Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps said:

“In a time of global instability, it is imperative we minimise the time our ships and submarines are out for maintenance.

This is another partnership with Thales UK and our outstanding UK defence sector that not only boosts national security but provides a boost to local communities and helps fuel economic growth.

Devonport Naval Base is an incredibly impressive facility with staff who play a role of such magnitude it cannot be underestimated.”

Around 300 UK jobs from a previous Thales UK support contract will be sustained and a further 150 STEM jobs, including highly skilled engineering roles and apprenticeships, will be created across Devonport, Faslane, Glasgow, Portsmouth, Cheadle, Crawley and Bristol. This contract also safeguards jobs from across an extensive UK supply chain.

The contract, awarded by Defence Equipment & Support – the MOD’s procurement arm – will improve the facilities at HMNB Devonport, Faslane, Portsmouth and Bahrain and deliver advanced test and repair capabilities. This enhanced waterfront presence will allow equipment to be triaged at source, thereby enabling rapid improvements in fault diagnosis, thereby reducing repair times.

The Defence Secretary’s visit to HMNB Devonport follows a £750 million funding boost to the naval base, announced in November 2023, that will significantly improve the infrastructure. Creating around 1,000 construction roles, the work will also support maintenance of existing and future submarines, and enhance the dockyard’s ability to deliver major defence projects.

The Southwest recently became the country’s Marine and Maritime Launchpad, recognising its leadership in the sector. The area will receive an additional £7.5 million in funding to support outstanding innovation projects within maritime. The shipbuilding enterprise directly supports over 43,000 jobs across the country, with over 19,000 employed in the Southwest alone.

Alex Cresswell, Chairman and CEO of Thales in the UK, said:

“Thales is delighted to strengthen our century long partnership with the Royal Navy, and support its vital role in defending the UK and keeping the world’s critical sea lanes open.

This £1.8 billion contract with Thales will help keep more Royal Navy ships at sea for longer, by harnessing the latest developments in artificial intelligence, data analysis and improved dockland facilities.”

Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Martin Connell said:

“The warships and submarines of the Royal Navy rely on the latest cutting-edge sensors and sonars to give us a key warfighting edge.

The new contract is a significant commitment from the MoD and Thales-UK to improving the availability of our equipment, maximising its effectiveness and enabling the Royal Navy to operate with confidence.

This significant investment in our ship and submarine sensors will ensure our equipment is at the cutting edge of technology.”

Vice Admiral Paul Marshall, Director General Ships, DE&S said:

“I am delighted that we have been able to secure a 15-year contract with Thales UK that will ensure the long-term support for major sonar, mast, periscope and electronic warfare equipment that are critical for Ship and Submarine capabilities.

Achieving this notable milestone is testament to the tremendous effort from all involved, both DE&S and Thales, where there has been determined focus on establishing long-term efficiencies and improvements that are vital to improving overall equipment availability.”

Senior Responsible Owner for Naval Support Integrated Global Network Program, Graeme Little, said:

“The signing of the contract is a significant milestone for the Support of Sonars and Sensors across the Royal Navy, I am delighted that we have put in place a contract focussed on a Value for Money solution that will drive availability and resilience into these critical capabilities and improve the Lived Experience of Royal Navy Engineers.”

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Tullzter (@guest_788482)
4 months ago

Thales is a wonderful company, a leader in sensors and sonars so it only makes sense

Cj (@guest_788537)
4 months ago
Reply to  Tullzter

Sounds like really good news, not got enough of things as is but make sure what we have is right up to date and working well, will keep us going for now.👍

Richard Beedall
Richard Beedall (@guest_788534)
4 months ago

Wow on the value, £124M a year! I sometimes wonder why the UKs defence budget – which is quite substantial – seems to deliver so little. The reality is that numerous vital contracts such as this chip away at the headline numbers.

One interesting sentence “The contract … will improve the facilities at HMNB Devonport, Faslane, Portsmouth and Bahrain.” HMS Jufair in Bahrain has become a core base for the RN.

Jim (@guest_788597)
4 months ago

This is why we can’t have nice things, or we can have nice things but very few of them

SailorBoy (@guest_788715)
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Surely some of the best sonar in the world is one of the “nice things”?
Just be glad this isn’t America or that contract would be £2bn each year.

Gunbuster (@guest_788603)
4 months ago

There are and have been for many, many years a couple lads here supporting the MCMV sonars. Its not a new thing.

Richard Beedall
Richard Beedall (@guest_788995)
4 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I left Bahrain in 2004, there has clearly been huge changes since then. My office was in an old ex-British Army building located in the first, pre-1970, HMS Jufair.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_788607)
4 months ago

Lots of money slushing around to worthy projects yet no real mention of any serious GBAD to protect these major bases let alone the rest of the country! Doesn’t this strike you as a bit odd?

Last edited 4 months ago by Quentin D63
Armchair Admiral
Armchair Admiral (@guest_788535)
4 months ago

What’s a “lived experience”?
Is it agile?

Frank (@guest_788619)
4 months ago

£2,000,000,000………….. That’s another 6 or 7 Type 31’s…. but as Jim says, “we can’t have Nice things or we can have nice things but very few of them”

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_789233)
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Look at the Equipment budget, mate.
Much goes on “Support” not purchase.
MoD’s budget supports the MIC, so assorted defence companies, as much if not more than it supports the conventional military.
The “Defence” budget does not equal RN, Army, RAF assets and people. It is so much more than that.

Mudge (@guest_789286)
4 months ago

Will the sonar being fitted to Astute class submarines using the LONG STAY parking facility at Faslane identify all possible threats?

Tom (@guest_789675)
4 months ago

£2 Billion? Really? Gold plated equipment? Wow man.

Hugo (@guest_791518)
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom

It’s 15 years