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Royal Netherlands Navy Selects Thales's integrated mast

20 December 2007

Hengelo, 20 December 2007. On 20 December 2007, the Netherlands' Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Thales Nederland signed a 125 million Euro contract for the development and supply of four Integrated Masts. The Integrated Masts will be installed on the four Ocean Patrol Vessels that are being built for the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN). The first ship is scheduled to be handed over to the RNLN at the end of 2010.

The Integrated Mast is a radical departure from the traditional sensor layout on board of naval vessels. One central mast structure houses all radar, optronic, and communication sensors and antennas as well as all cabinets and peripherals. The advantages of this revolutionary sensor concept are huge: better operational performance, higher operational availability, reduced ship-building time, reduced maintenance requirements and enormous savings in below-deck space.

Thales is Design Authority of the Integrated Mast and will subcontract the design and supply of the steel structure to shipyards and integrate all sensor and communication systems. The Integrated Mast is a system that allows adaptation to specific types of ships and specific sensors.

The Integrated Mast provides the solution to the sensor problems encountered on many naval platforms that often have more than 100 antennas for surveillance, communications, fire control and navigation. These systems compete for the best place on deck but may in fact block each other and cause electro-magnetic interference. Generally, this phenomenon becomes apparent after the installation of all equipment, especially if multiple suppliers are involved.

Traditional sensor and antenna arrangements significantly increase the time and costs to build naval warships. Apart from several iterations to find suitable antenna arrangements, shipyards have to negotiate with several equipment suppliers about power supplies, deck structure adaptations, electrical interfaces, cabling, cooling, etc. In addition, equipment installation is on the critical path of almost every shipbuilding program. The shipyard starts installation only after it has finished the ship including the welding, painting, installation of cabins, etc. It then brings in the above-deck and below-deck equipment components, the required cabling and wave-guides, and performs the integration. Furthermore, expensive cabling infrastructures and much valuable space are required to accommodate the various processing cabinets.

The Integrated Mast concept improves this undesirable situation: the mast and equipment are built and tested in parallel to the ship. When the ship is ready, the mast is put on the ship as a turnkey system. It has a simple interface to the ship's power supply, cooling water supply, combat system, and mechanical deck structure, making installation a plug and play operation. The Integrated Mast concept thus reduces the time needed for shipbuilding and allows shipyards to better utilise their docks. There is a growing tendency for shipyards to reduce the time needed to build ships by using a modular design. Several prefab modules are built simultaneously and integrated at the shipyard. The Integrated Mast is the module that contains the sensors and communication equipment including the associated processing cabinets.

Netherlands OPV
The advanced Ocean Patrol Vessels to be built for the Royal Netherlands Navy are flexible, long-endurance ships with a high performance, designed for tasks including embargo operations, counter drugs trafficking, and humanitarian missions. The Integrated Mast for the RNLN Patrol Vessels will contain the sensors SMILE, SEASTAR, and GATEKEEPER. The non-rotating radars SMILE and SEASTAR have been designed to detect littoral targets that are difficult to detect by a typical rotating radar. These sensors support missions in coastal waters thanks to their inherent longer time on target and capability to operate in complicated atmospheric conditions and deal with objects with missile-resembling radar cross-sections such as birds and windmills that easily induce false alarms.

About the sensors
SMILE, a non-rotating phased array radar with four faces that is derived from the proven SMART and APAR radar systems. SMILE's unique concept of multibeam volume search with four active phased array faces ensures the simultaneous performance of all operational tasks at a high update rate and practically zero false alarm rate.

SEASTAR, a non-rotating active phased array radar for naval surface surveillance. The system automatically detects and tracks asymmetric threats and very small objects such as swimmers, periscopes in all weather conditions. SEASTAR can also be used for helicopter guidance.

GATEKEEPER, a 360° panoramic electro-optical surveillance and alerter system based on IR/TV technology. Designed to counter emerging asymmetric threats down to small boats and swimmers, GATEKEEPER increases short-range situational awareness in littoral environments.

SMILE and SEASTAR are marketed as SEAMASTER 400 and SEAWATCHER 100 for the export markets.

About Thales
Thales is a leading international electronics and systems group, addressing defence, aerospace and security markets worldwide. Thales' leading-edge technology is supported by 22,000 R&D engineers who offer a capability unmatched in Europe to develop and deploy field-proven mission-critical information systems. To this end, the group's civil and military businesses develop in parallel and share a common base of technologies to serve one single objective: the security of people, property and nations. The group builds its growth on its unique multi-domestic strategy based on trusted partnerships with national customers and market players, while leveraging its global expertise to support local technology and industrial development. Thales employs 68,000 people in 50 countries with forecast 2007 revenues in excess of €12 billion. Thales Nederland, established in 1922, is one of the leading companies in integrated naval systems for surveillance, weapon control, combat management and system integration world-wide.

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