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Thales to develop sonar suite for new generation of French nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine


According to a press release published, French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly on Friday,  February 19, 2021, announced the launch of the full-scale development phase of the SNLE 3G program to build France's third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs). As part of the SNLE 3G program, the French defense procurement agency (DGA) has signed an MoU with Thales for the development of a complete sonar suite including a broad range of sonar arrays and associated processing systems.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 French SNLE 3G program will provide a new third generation of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines. (Picture source Naval Group)


The technological innovations planned for the various sonars will lead to order-of-magnitude increases in data volumes compared to current systems, which will require the use of artificial intelligence and Big Data algorithms.

With the launch of full-scale development of France's third generation of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SNLE 3G), Thales is developing a new sonar suite based on disruptive technologies that represent a significant break from the systems in service today.

Thales will provide new-generation flank arrays and bow-mounted sonars, a towed linear array based on optical technology (ALRO), and all the other equipment making up the sonar suite (intercept arrays, echo-sounders, underwater telephones). The size of the arrays and the frequency bands they use will deliver unparalleled performance in terms of 3D (azimuth, elevation, range) detection precision. 

The ALICIA sensor data processing system (Analyse, Localisation, Identification, Classification Intégrées et Alertes), with a user interface designed to handle the diversity and volume of available data, will optimize operator workload and provide decision support.

The new sonar suite will be deployed incrementally, with the first technological building blocks and system versions due to be installed on second-generation SSBNs (SNLE 2G) from 2025, and on the third-generation submarines (SNLE 3G) from 2035.