PARIS — France has awarded a contract for Archange, its strategic airborne intelligence program aimed at strengthening the country’s signals intelligence capabilities, to Thales and Dassault Aviation.
The procurement agency DGA awarded the contract on Dec. 30, but it wasn’t announced until Tuesday. The program was launched Nov. 18 by Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.
The companies would not specify how much the contract was worth.
Thales is expected to install a universal electronic warfare capability on three Dassault-manufactured Falcon 8X aircraft, although the announced deal is only for two aircraft. Another contract is expected to cover a third aircraft at a later date. The first two aircraft should, by 2025, replace the two Transall C-160 Gabriel aircraft that provide the French Air Force which signals intelligence.
The electronic warfare system, known by its French acronym CUGE (capacité universelle de guerre électronique), will make use of sigint technologies developed by Thales over the past decade to enable the system to simultaneously detect and analyze radio and radar signals. Thales said in a statement that this is possible thanks to multipolarization antennas and the use of artificial intelligence for automated data processing.
The tri-jet Falcon 8X is Dassault’s flagship business jet. It has a range of 7,500 miles, but a spokesman for Dassault told Defense News that this did not necessarily mean the sigint version, called Archange (avion de renseignement à charge utile de nouvel génération), would have the same range.
The contract also includes the supply of a ground-based training platform, which will be based at Evreux, south of Paris.