Dassault and Thales to build the next French electronic spy plane


The French procurement and technology agency, Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) has awarded the Archange airborne strategic intelligence program to Dassault Aviation and Thales. This program will see three Dassault Falcon 8X being fitted with Thales electronic intelligence technologies.

The contract was awarded on December 30, 2019, the DGA announced on January 14, 2020. Thales and Dassault Aviation are now tasked with equipping the future French Army strategic intelligence aircraft with “Universal Warfare Capacities” (CUGE).

The initial order covers the first two Dassault Falcon 8X aircraft. With the first plane expected for 2025, they should eventually replace the two Transall C-160G Gabriel aircraft currently operating in the French Air Force.

The tri-jet Falcon 8X is a business jet that can carry 8 passengers and 3 crew members over a distance of 12,000 km (6,450 nm). According to the manufacturer, its digital flight controls stem directly from Dassault Aviation’s experience acquired with its two latest fighter jets, the Mirage 2000 and the Rafale.

Thales developed its new CUGE sensor specifically for the French military, allowing simultaneously the interception of radio and radar emissions. Multi-polarization antennas will be integrated into the airframe, as well as artificial intelligence technologies that allow for improved data processing.  The program also provides a ground training platform. The total value of the contract is unknown.

As an electronic “spy plane”, the role of the Falcon Archange (formerly known as Epicure) is to detect electromagnetic signals emitted on the battlefield, allowing the French army to evaluate the number and type of enemy forces in order to use the appropriate countermeasures. “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,” explains Nadim Traboulsi, Archange program director for Thales.


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