Headquartered in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, Thales Group is the 11th largest defense contractor in the world, with 60% of its total sales being for military purposes. The Irvine, California-based aerospace branch Thales Avionics
manages more than 40% of the Earth’s airspace with its air traffic control centers, and is the premier provider of flight avionics—being Number 1 in Europe, and Number 3 globally.
Founded in 2000, Thales has since established itself as a major influencer in the European aerospace market—being the primary manager of avionics equipment for the French Air Force, being awarded a 10-year fixed-price contract for supplying the Rafale fighter jet, and winning the maintenance contract for all of the Airbus NH90 helicopters flying globally.Thales’ portfolio of flight avionics systems include:
- Commercial avionics: Thales equips all major aircraft suppliers—Airbus, ATR, Boeing, Bombardier, Gulfstream, and Sukhoi—with its TopDeck Avionics Suite. Thales notably contributes to the Airbus A350 XWB, SESAR (Europe), and NextGen (US) development programs.
- Military avionics: Thales supplies cockpit avionics systems to Dassault’s Rafale fighter jet, Airbus’ A400M four-engine turboprop military transport plane, and Embraer’s KC-390 twin-engine jet-powered military transport plane.
- Helicopter avionics: Thales equips the Sikorsky S76-D rotorcraft with the TopDeck cockpit avionics system—making Thales the first European rotorcraft cockpit producer to be on board a US-made civilian aircraft.
Thales prides itself on being a major supplier to Europe’s premier Rafale omnirole fighter project. In February 2004, the French Ministry of Defense awarded Thales a USD$633 million contract to develop systems for the F3 standard Rafale aircraft. Onboard the Rafale, Thales Avionics’ systems have been combat proven in Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali. In 2012, Thales secured a 10-year maintenance contract from the French Ministry of Defense to look after the electronic warfare systems of the Rafale omnirole fighter.
Integrated with a wide-angle heads-up holographic display, the Thales-produced Rafale cockpit has hands-on throttle and stick control (HOTAS) and firing cues. Providing real-time tactical situation and sensor data, the Thales display alerts the crew of Rafale system parameters and operation data.
For countermeasures, Thales designed the Spectra electronic warfare system for the twin-jet fighter. The Spectra system consists of a solid state transmitter, a differential absorption lidar (DAL) laser warning receiver, missile detection sensors, and jammers.
Fitted with Thales’ RBE2 passive electronically-scanned radar, the Dassault Rafale has look down and shoot down abilities. Able to track eight enemy targets at once, the Thales RBE2 system identifies each threat and prioritizes them so the Rafale crew can decide on a course of action. Nose-mounted, the Thales/Sagem jointly-created optronic suite serves as the Rafale’s infrared search and tracking system. The suite discriminates and tracks enemies automatically.
As of 2013, Thales has sales exceeding US$19 billion, and boasts an order book valued at USD$39.49 billion.