The French Armament General Directorate (DGA) has awarded Thales and Dassault Aviation the contract to equip the French Army’s future strategic intelligence aircraft with the CUGE universal electronic warfare capability.

The contract covers the first two aircraft on the programme.

According to Thales in a release, CUGE will ultimately be deployed by three Falcon X aircraft, built by Dassault Aviation, to replace the two Transall C-160 Gabriel aircraft in service with the French Air Force from 2025.

“With the ongoing development of digital technologies for the battlefield of the future, the armed forces are in the process of enhancing their intelligence capabilities. In the theatre of operations, they need to manage ever more complex tactical situations in real time, deploying surveillance systems that enable the intelligence services to make the best decisions in a timely fashion. Thales, in partnership with Dassault Aviation, the DGA and the armed forces, has developed a new generation of signals intelligence (SIGINT) technologies under several advanced study programmes.

Thales will produce all the sensors for the SIGINT payload and integrate the overall system on board Dassault Aviation’s Falcon 8X aircraft. These new technologies will enable the system to detect and analyse radio and radar signals simultaneously for the first time, in particular thanks to Thales’s multi-polarisation antennas and the use of its artificial intelligence technologies to automate data processing.”

It is understood that the information collected by the systems will then be analysed by monitoring and intelligence specialists and fed into armed forces databases.

The programme also reportedly includes a ground-based training platform. Through this new programme, the French armed forces will once again rely on Thales expertise to significantly enhance their SIGINT capabilities, and will gain a crucial advantage through a better understanding of the strategic environment.

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Ian Skinner

Thales and Dassualt, gosh, never saw that coming!


Compared to us, they are still lagging behind. We have the following aircraft who’s role currently includes sigint, they are the E3D sentry, RC135 Rivet Joint, R1 Sentinel, King Air, Islander and the Hercules when fitted with certain equipment. The role that the Falcon X will be doing is closer to the Rivet Joints i.e. signal mapping and recording. However all the aircraft I’ve listed have a similar capability, but just not to the same extent as Rivet Joint’s. It cannot be understated how crucial a role the Rivet Joint does. The information it gathers gets filtered down to all… Read more »


Indeed, however I just wish Rivet Joint was based on the more modern MRTT or P-8 airframe for commonality.

James M

True, but surely it’s better to have something than nothing, or than waiting for however long and buying a bespoke (and therefore more expensive) aircraft. At the very least though, the yanks still have dozens of rivet joints, and hundreds of 707-derived aircraft both in and out of the boneyard. Maintenance will be high, yes, but we did get the youngest airframes in the USAF’s KC-135 fleet to convert.


I know it is probably industry knowledge and our adversaries know what rivet joint does but i do wish people would just keep their mouths closed or their fingers off keyboards sometimes. Just as we do, our less friendly nations trawl sites like this for glimpses of int. You may wish to share your knowledge of things but the phrase the walls have ears still applies.


There is nothing that I have stated not freely available from certain wiki sites or the RAF’s homepage. I am very careful with the information that I state or reply to on this forum for that very reason!