France’s Direction Générale de l’Armament (DGA) has awarded a contract to Dassault Aviation and Thales to equip two Dassault Falcon 8X business jets with the Thales Capacité Universelle de Guerre Electronique (CUGE, universal electronic warfare capability) signals intelligence (Sigint) suite. The contract was awarded on December 30 and announced jointly by the companies on January 14.
Launched in February 2018, the program for a Falcon-based Sigint aircraft was then known as Epicure, and at the time the specific model of Falcon platform had not been finalized. While the initial contract is for two aircraft, the stated requirement is for three, and a contract for a third aircraft is expected. The system is due to enter service in 2025. The French air force currently uses two C-160G Gabriels for Sigint, flying with Escadron Electronique Aéroporté 00.054 “Dunkerque” at Evreux-Fauville.
The CUGE-equipped aircraft are being procured under the Avion de Renseignement à Charge Utile de Nouvelle Genération (Archange, intelligence aircraft with new-generation payload) program, which was launched to produce a successor to the C-160G Gabriel aircraft, which is based on the aging Transall airlifter platform.
Thales has developed a new generation of signals intelligence technologies to enhance strategic intelligence capabilities. The emphasis lies on managing increasingly complex situations in real time to speed the decision-making process for commanders. The CUGE system can detect both radios and radars, and analyze their signals, simultaneously for the first time. It employs multi-polarization antennas and artificial intelligence in its automated data processing.
Thales produces all of the CUGE equipment and is responsible for integrating the system into the Falcon 8X platform. It is also providing a ground-based training system for the monitoring and intelligence specialists who will feed data into armed forces databases to provide a better understanding of the strategic environment.
“The ability to anticipate developments is key to national security, and reliable intelligence is therefore a critical requirement to understand the risks and inform operational decisions," said Nadim Traboulsi, Thales’s program director for Archange. “Thales, in partnership with Dassault Aviation, is proud to support the French armed forces on this strategic program, which will bring the country new intelligence capabilities by developing the successor to the Transall Gabriel as part of Europe's defenses."
The trijet 8X is the latest addition to the Falcon range, and its business jet version can carry eight passengers and three crew over a distance of 6,450 nm (12,000 km). The aircraft’s digital flight controls draw from technology developed for the Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighters.
“I am very proud and happy with the decision of the Ministry of the Armed Forces," said Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. "The Archange Falcon will serve the French forces in the same way as the Falcons 10, 200, 50, 2000, 900, and 7X are already doing."