PARIS — French electronics company Thales sees strong growth in the world market for small combat ships, or offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), which will drive investment to deliver more compact and capable technology, a senior executive said Oct. 23.
“Today, major growth for us is in the market of OPVs, small vessels but very strongly equipped, [with] a lot of communications systems, ships that are integrated in a network, and ships that must have absolutely outstanding sensors in order to catch the situation,” said Pierre-Eric Pommelet, Thales senior vice president, defense mission systems, at the Euronaval trade show.
“We see many, many programs going on,” Pommelet said.
That demand for OPVs has placed a priority within all business sectors to develop smaller, very accurate and more competitive optronics, lightweight electronic warfare systems, command and control, and combat systems for small warships.
There was also a need to develop antisubmarine warfare systems for the OPV segment, he said.
“This market is rising absolutely everywhere,” Pommelet said. The OPV would be operated by navies and coast guards, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, which is looking for a new Offshore Patrol Cutter. The OPC is an OPV, which effectively resembles a combat ship that might be operated by navies in Asia and the Middle East, he said.
“It’s a volume market,” he said.
Although the outlook in Europe and France is difficult, Thales is investing as the world naval market is expected to grow in the coming years, and exports account for more than 70 percent of its naval activities, he said.
Anti-ballistic missile defense was also an area of investment as this was a priority for a client country, which provided the funding on a sovereign basis, Pommelet said. “It’s not a place we self-invest,” he said.
The world naval market totals some 33 billion euros ($43.1 billion), of which surface warships account for 29 billion euros and submarines the rest, Pommelet said.
Naval sales are worth 1.7 billion euros, or 10 percent of Thales’ 13 billion annual sales, Executive Chairman Luc Vigneron said.