PART VI – THALES REORGANISES TO MEET THE C4ISR INFORMATION REVOLUTION
BATTLESPACE meets Bruno Rambaud, Senior Vice President, Thales Communications Systems Business Group
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
“Within Thales, we see ourselves not as a big platform supplier but as an electronics system supplier to meet the C4ISR Challenge. We have reorganised the business in order that we may provide a two-step approach, the provision of systems and support. As our segment is represented in 14 countries we can provide interoperability of the new concept through a single point of access to all our existing military customers. Through this provision of open systems architecture, we can provide an incremental development process which will keep our systems in service at the highest standards for many years,” Rambaud told BATTLESPACE
Since our last visit to Thales in 1999, information and communication systems have come to play a dominant role in military operations as the battlespace evolves into a complex digital system of systems. The information revolution is having an impact on almost all the Thales Group’s defence businesses. The names of the individual divisions such as COMSYS, Optroniques and Detexis have now been combined into one Thales Defence structure that has five Business Groups, accounting for 60% of Thales’ Global Activity. The Thales defence businesses’ strategic positioning and international industrial presence give the Group a unique opportunity to lead the field in C4ISR. Rambaud’s Communications Systems Division accounts for 17% of Global activity worth approximately €1.75bn. The segment provides defence communications systems for Army, Navy and Air Force applications and has an extensive business with the French Government supplying a number of key communications systems. Its flagship POR4G tactical radio has notched up over 100,000 sales to 30 countries.
As a foretaste of things to come, the day after our visit, on September 12th, Thales announced a net profit surged more than six-fold in the first half of 2002 thanks to strong growth at its defense division and lower taxes. Net profit came in at EUR88m – at the high end of analyst’s expectations ranging from €40m to €100m – from €14m in the first half of 2001.
Fortified by the improved profitability of its defense operations, Thales continues to target a 10% growth in revenue and a 5%-to-10% rise in operating profit for the full year, operating profit rose 8.4% to EUR297m (2001: EUR274m).
The defense arm faired well with a 29% jump in revenue to EUR2.91bn and a 20% increase in operating profit to EUR235m.
When asked whether Thales Communications would be the spearhead division for C4ISR activities, Rambaud said, “Thales works for all the armed forces, on all types of platforms, and its added value applies to the whole defence system chain from “sensor to shooter”. The Group is involved in information gathering (radars, Optronics and infrared cameras, sonars and electronic warfare) as well as command information systems, weapon systems and associated simulation systems. It may be that our segment is approached by a customer to lead a specific requirement but it is more likely that we will provide input to a Thales-led bid. For instance we provide 15% of the Thales UK-led Watchkeeper programme but we are the lead Thales Division in the French Bulle Operationelle Aero-Terrestre (BOA), the French equivalent to the UK FRES and US FCS requirements. Our C4ISR approach will involve the provision progressively networking sensors, weapon systems and operational information systems into a “system of systems” to achieve a number of clear benefits at each phase of a military engagement including intelligent data recognition, extraction of relevant information and secure distribution of that information to decision-makers at the right level. The result will be a significantly faster operational tempo and a common operational pic