By Pierre Tran
Paris. Thales signed Nov. 17 a contract worth €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) to supply Dutch shipbuilder Damen with a radar, combat management and fire control systems for the German MKS-180 frigate, Philippe Duhamel, vice president for defense mission systems, said.
The deal with Damen was the third largest for Thales, following the sale five years ago of the Rafale fighter jet to India, and a contract 10 years ago for the FREMM multimission frigate for the French navy, he said Nov. 18 in a telephone press conference.
The budget for four MKS 180 multipurpose frigates is worth some €4.6 billion over 10 years.
Thales will supply its Tacticos combat management system, a fire control system dubbed Above Water Warfare System, and Active Phased Array Radar block 2 under the 10-year contract, the company said in a statement. There will also be service support, and test and training facilities on land.
The APAR block 2 will be a development of the block 1 version, which has been fitted on Danish, Dutch and German vessels, Duhamel said. That sensor is a naval variant of the active electronically scanned array, an airborne radar.
Development work will take some five years, followed by integration, allowing the first frigate to be operational in 2028, he said. There are options for two more units.
Some 70 percent of the work will take place in Germany, with 30 percent in the Netherlands, drawing on local subcontractors.
The German frigate deal followed Thales and Babcock winning a tender for the Royal Navy Type 31 frigate, and Thales supplying kit on the French navy FDI frigate for defense and intervention, he said.
The APAR radar differs from the Sea Fire on the French frigate, as the Dutch and German navies’ concept of operations differed from the French, he said.
“The radar reflects the concept of operations,” he said.
The AWWS fire control system seeks to handle a simultaneous and saturation attack from a broad range of new threats, such as surface drones and slow moving targets, as well as fighter jets and missiles, he said. Asked whether the system could handle hypersonic missiles, he said the first rank German navy seeks capabilities to manage future threats.
In other deals, Thales expects a Dutch competition in 2022 as Belgium and the Netherlands seek a replacement for their M frigate, he said. The Thales unit in the Netherlands developed the new fire control system.
Thales signed September 2019 a development contract for AWWS for the Belgian and Dutch navies, the company said.
Thales beat German companies for the integrated systems, said Sash Tusa, analyst with equity research firm Agency Partners.
Hensoldt will supply its TRS-4D air defense radar in a deal worth €200 million. That contract could be seen as a goodwill gesture to a national champion which essentially lost to an outsider, he said.
“The stand-out factor is the German contract shows the big orders are now in mature markets in Europe, which is rearming, whereas previous big Thales arms contracts were in Saudi Arabia, with the Crotale short-range, surface-to-air missile, and the Sawari 1 and 2 frigate deals,” he said.
The drone attacks on Saudi oil refineries in 2019 highlighted the poor performance of such short-range air defense missiles, intended to protect the installations.
Damen has partnered with Blohm+Voss to meet a requirement for a local shipbuilder to be in the MKS 180 program.
The pick by the German authorities of a Dutch company has led to a German industrial consolidation, with family-owned
Lürssen and German Naval Yards forming a joint venture, leaving ThyssenKrupp Marine System out in the cold.
Editor’s Note: For a look at Lürssen in Australia, see the following: