Sea Fire designed to have multiple functions, incl. surveillance, tracking and fire control
Thales is in discussions with the French DGA procurement agency regarding the potential adaptation of its new Sea Fire 500 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar into a ground-based missile defence system.
Speaking to MONS at its Rouen site on 31 May, Gaston Marcantoni, Director for Surface Multi-Function Radar Activities at Thales, said that the concept behind the naval radar was that it would eventually evolve into a family of systems, and vehicle-based air defence is the next avenue for this. “We are thinking about what the future ground applications for this could be,” he said. “We are proposing to the French ministry of defence through the DGA what kind of study we could perform into this. For some applications, we know where we want to go; for others, we are still working on it.”
Continuing along the same lines as the Sea Fire, the so-called Ground Fire radar will be an S-band system that will also be a fully-digitalised AESA, Marcantoni said. However, while the Sea Fire 500 is a gallium nitride (GaN) solid-state four-panel phased-array antenna, and the arrays can be positioned at different points on a vessel, the ground-based variant will be a fixed-antenna.
It will include an S-band uplink for the missile guidance, and for the markets that Thales is targeting, S-band is a sufficient link for the air defence system to operate in, Marcantoni noted. Sea Fire is designed to have multiple functions, including surveillance, tracking and fire control, and all of these have to be carried out simultaneously in order to be able to carry out the air defence role.
Thales claims that the building blocks of the radar system are adaptable, and were designed to be applied to other applications.
This includes a compact transmit and receive channel, high power/efficiency GaN transmitter, wide RF bandwidth, fully digital AESA antenna, high rate analogue to digital converter, and open software to allow for upgrades.
Reliability is ensured through the architecture, Marcantoni added, so it will address all types of radar requirements with one architecture.
Thales is still developing the Sea Fire radar, and the company expects that production of this will start soon. Marcantoni said that within the coming two months the first element of the prototype will be developed – a transmitter/receiver – with testing to begin in 2018 and continue for some two years ahead of the first delivery for the navy’s intermediate frigates in 2020.
Paris is acquiring five BELH@RRA intermediate frigates from DCNS, the company announced on 21 April, which alongside the Sea Fire will be equipped with MBDA’s ASTER 30 anti-air missiles. The first of these is expected to be delivered in 2023 and commissioned in 2025.
“It will be endowed with extended self-defence and special forces projection capacities,” DCNS said in April. “Last but not least, it will integrate the new Thales Sea Fire four flat antenna radar, and will be equipped with ASTER 30 missiles from MBDA.”
Marcantoni noted that this family of radar is not replacing the Groundmaster series that the company has seen success with, noting that these have a surveillance application rather than the missile defence application of the Ground Fire and Sea Fire.