The French defence procurement agency has awarded Thales and Airbus a contract for the new joint tactical signals intelligence (SIGINT) system to upgrade the French forces’ critical signals monitoring, direction finding and spectrum analysis capabilities.

“The 10-year contract will equip the three armed forces with a common information system and set of sensors and is designated a high-impact program (PEM[1]), alongside CONTACT and SCORPION, under France’s defense spending plan. This joint tactical SIGINT system will provide French armed forces command with an expanded tactical electronic support measures (ESM) capability.”

The tactical SIGINT programme will upgrade the electronic warfare capabilities of front-line units, providing a set of high-performance portable or vehicle-mounted assets compatible with the latest communications technologies.

The new system to monitor and localize enemy communications will support tactical manoeuvres in the theatre of operations, helping to keep our forces safe and secure.

It will equip the electronic support vehicles of the French Army’s 54th Signals Regiment, the French Navy’s front-line warships and the Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft, and could be deployed to protect air bases on military operations overseas.

“The system will be the only one of its kind in service with the French forces. All three armed forces will rely on the same logistics infrastructure to simplify training of specialist operators and optimize through-life support delivery. The first phase of the program will provide the three armed forces with an initial operational capability for signals monitoring, with subsequent optional tranches to significantly increase the number of units in service.

New functions (new data analytics functions for the information system, expanded detection and technical analysis capabilities, etc.) will be added incrementally over the term of the contract to provide the French armed forces with a set of state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems and capabilities.”

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I have wondered why the French, seeing that the Nimrod project got canned, never suggested a joint development with the UK of an Airbus A310/320, as a replacement for the Nimrod and Atlantiques. Especially when you consider Germany, Italy and Holland were operating the Atlantique 1s and rather than upgrade them like the French did, bin them for something else. The Italians lost its ASW capability when they got their ATR72s and the Dutch have none. The majority of the Nimrod MR4’s ASW suite was ready to go, but was let down by the airframe. How easy would it have… Read more »


DaveyB, careful you will be accused of thinking logically. Taking your thinking to its end, the electronic suite from the P-8 and E-7 possibly could all have gone into the Airbus A330 airframe making it compatible with the tankers etc. This could or would have been of intrest to European nations and created European work. I have often thought about the A380 that no one seems to want now, could they be equipped as a flying comms centre for the British and French nuclear subs, or even in a basic form two could airlift a Light Infantry Battalion with 3-7… Read more »

Robert Blay

Hi Ron. Zero requirement for a flying coms center for subs. Satellites do that job. And it isn’t cheap or easy to use airliners for military requirements. The conversion cost would be to high. And aircraft like a A320 or A380 are very expensive to purchase. The notion that some have said on this site before that airliner airframes are some how cheap to buy is completely false. If it was cheap and easy, we would do it, but knobody does.


10 years too late!

Supportive Bloke

The “problem” as we went over in another thread is the bomb bay etc. The sensors require a bit of thought with modifying bits to reduce interference – less of a problem with Comet as the engines were in the wing. Putting the electronics in an an airframe is the easy bit. Getting the airframe able to do the rest is the challenge. How much of this tech is sovereign UK Thales stuff sold as Black Box is open for debate as we haven’t the foggiest idea who did what. But given that the guts of the P8 were UK… Read more »

John Clark

To add to this, I believe the main structures of the P8 are beefed up with thicker skins applied. The P8 certainly isn’t cheap and that’s with a USN order over 100, plus numerous international buyers. Let’s look at at an A320 based platform (the A330 is too big), all the above P8 mods would be required, but with a total order of about 30, the unit cost would be sky high, probably double the cost of a P8. The above is fine for European industry, but the respective countries involved would pay a very high price and drain already… Read more »

Last edited 19 days ago by John Clark

An A320 Marime Patrol Aircraft…
Such like this ?

John Clark

Thanks for the link Hermes, so I see from this that the A320 derived platform is a minimum change airframe, with no weapons bay and they appear to be saying no structural changes??

It’s certainly not in the same league at the P8, offering significantly less capability, but probably end up costing the same or more because of the handful ordered..


No bay weapons ? Yes he have.

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(Airbus presentation)

Sceptical Richard

There were a number of initiatives around this idea. But basically the Brits at the time just didn’t want to know as they were in denial and busy justifying getting rid of our MPA capability. I was actually told by the then C-in-C Strike (as it was then) that there was no need for this capability. All sorts of other assets and allies would fill the gap. The French couldn’t afford it on their own and Airbus was, anyway, dead against embarking on such a project at the time. By the time the idea came round to being good again,… Read more »

John Clark

Cameron was a disaster, he seriously damaged UK defence with his reckless and dangerous 2010 Defence review.


Did the French keep the Atlantics though as a low flying turboprop is better for the job (no need for wing kits for your torpedos)

I did think it would have been better to put British kit into a platform like the Hercules for this reason (and get Marshalls to do all that work).

That said the P8s are coming in stream well: one of the most successful purchases done by the MOD?