The French defence contractor Thales has won the bid to build the “digital heart” of five UK frigates and provide them with a modern combat and communication systems costing an average of £250 million per ship.
Arrowhead 140 will become the UK’s Navy’s newest class of warships; due to take to the seas in the year 2023. Construction of the frigates is expected to involve a workforce of 1,250 highly skilled workers.
The project – headquartered in Bristol – brings together four contractor groups Babcock, Odense Maritime Technology, Thales and BMT.
The system Thales is providing for this new class of fleets is the TACTICOS combat management system. These systems let an actor set up secure internet access and communication between allies and can quickly identify anomalous behaviour or odd traffic trends. It also builds 3D training simulations that can also be used to gauge combat effectiveness.
TACTICOS was conceived in the early 1990s as an integrated and highly automated multi-warfare combat management system (CMS) to manage
command and weapon control functions on board naval surface combatants.
Naval Warfare? “There’s an App for That”
Intriguingly for a combat system, over the past two decades it has migrated to a certified open architecture, enabling TACTICOS to host third-party applications and accept new or modified functionality. (This has been implemented using the OpenSplice DDS middleware product, a realtime systems messaging standard).
The Thales TACTICOS systems is currently used by more than 160 ships belonging to more than 20 nations across the EU, as well as the US. In March 2019 Thales agreed to extend combat system and design to the UK, extending technical capabilities at its Bristol and Crawley to underpin a sovereign UK capability within the TACTICOS product line.
Victor Chavez, Chief Executive of Thales in the UK commented: “Thales has been at the forefront of innovation with the Royal Navy for over 100 years. We are immensely proud of the trusted critical solutions we provide to the Royal Navy to protect our waters. This means we can continue to expand our significant UK footprint whilst also looking to export markets.”
Digital Heart’ of UK Warships
The development of this new class of warship involves several contractors such as Thales, OMT, BMT, Harland and Wolff and Ferguson Marine, who all work on the development platform Team 31.
The Arrowhead 140 warship uses OMT’s Iver Huitfeldt hull form which is currently deployed by the Royal Danish Navy. Essentially the Arrowhead 140 warship is an easy to build ship that can be rapidly reconfigured to suit a nations situational needs. The ship can be designed, built and assembled at pace as its construction is is primed for pre-outfitting with open compartments enabling rapid assembly supporting time and cost efficiencies.
Craig Lockhart, Babcock’s Managing Director, Naval Marine commented: “Arrowhead 140 will provide increased survivability, operability and capability – compared to a standard 120m design. When you consider that this ship can be delivered at no extra cost and that it will support improved radar performance, increase platform stability and facilitate better helicopter operations in bad weather, whilst enhancing crew comfort – we believe it will bring a significant edge to modern naval capability.”