Thales Group, a global multinational company specialized in defense, aerospace, security, space, transportation and digital security, and identity that designs and builds electronic systems, hosted an extensive media trip at its headquarter in Paris – Rungis just before the Dubai Air Show 2021. The trip involved detailed briefings and extensive demos, and showcase of solutions and technologies, particularly in air defense, air surveillance, radars, and UAVs in addition of integrated Air Missile defense systems and optronics. The trip also allowed for in-depth meetings and interviews with their executive senior management. To talk about the Group’s diversified product line, it’s experience in and plans for the UAE, and its future ambitions, Al Jundi Journal talked to Christophe Salomon, Executive Vice President Thales, Land and Air Systems.
Talk to us about the Thales Group and its fields of work in general, and about the most prominent products that the group offers to its customers, and what is the extent of satisfaction and demand for them?
From the bottom of the oceans to the depths of space and cyberspace, we help our customers navigate uncertainty with confidence and new frontiers with optimism. Thinking smarter and acting faster – mastering ever-greater complexity and every decisive moment along the way. With our customers, together we collaborate to architect and deliver high technology solutions that are both imaginative and resilient, human-centered and sustainable. So that together we can harness the power of technology to build a future we can all trust in defence and security, space, aerospace, digital identity and ground transportation
How important is the UAE market to the Thales Group?
The UAE is a strategic global partner for Thales, we have been present in country for over 45 years already and we see a bright future ahead. Our vision for the UAE is “Industry, Innovation and Education” and our objective is to bring security, safety and growth, preserving state sovereignty, providing sustainable economic development, and fostering local talent. As a long-term partner of the UAE armed forces, we have developed a local presence in country through the creation of Thales Emarat Technologies. This has allowed us to expand our local footprint, to be able to adapt and meet customer needs and, most importantly, to develop talent through high-level professional & academic training programmes.
Thales Emarat Technologies is a local entity 100% owned by Thales that focus on centres of excellence for critical systems and a variety of defence and digital aerospace technologies. Thales Emarat Technologies is the vector of Thales strategy in the UAE and is integrated in the local Emirati industrial ecosystem to create value and economic impact in the short and medium term. TET was created in 2019 as part of the Tawazun Economic Program.
It will provide the United Arab Emirates unique and sovereign technology capabilities in line with the UAE’s national strategy and the visions of its leadership to develop a nation that is at the forefront of innovation, has strong human capital and is self-reliant.
Thales Emarat Technologies is the vector of our local strategy, to serve the UAE and beyond.
Thales Emarat Technologies leverages Thales’s unparalleled technological portfolio to serve the UAE and promote the diversification of the local economy. The company dedicates itself to investing in a promising local workforce.
In your opinion, what are the defense solutions and technologies that the region is missing at the present time?
It is not about what is missing, rather how can advanced nations such as the UAE and other countries in the region continuously address evolving threats and the evolving landscape. For example, we are seeing an increased demand for integrated air and missile defence against ballistic missile threats. As well as a need for solutions that can counter drones, and even swarms of drones.
In the next 20 years, there will be millions of new drones will enter our skies, creating a highly complex aviation ecosystem and a range of significant safety and security challenges.
Connectivity, big data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and quantum technology are vital to the development of our societies. The speed at which these are evolving means that countries must continuously implement the latest solutions to protect their nations. However, the solutions in use today for civil applications are not appropriate for deployed forces. They require unlimited bandwidth that armed forces do not have in the field. The armed forces need sovereign tools for these constrained environments. They need to be able to analyse and share information in real time, from command centres in the homeland to units deployed in remote theatres of operations. Solutions like the Thales Defence Cloud enables countries to make their digital transformation with the highest levels of security and speed up the decision cycle so they can maintain the operational edge.
As mentioned above, integrated air and missile defence is a crucial topic for nations. Thales radars protect airspace, citizens and assets, covering the full spectrum of Air surveillance and Air Defence Radars for today’s and tomorrow’s threats from stealth aircraft, hypersonic missiles, Theatre Ballistic Missiles (TBM), to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Our large radar portfolio meets a variety of operational needs for land, air and naval forces – providing superior situational awareness to detect, identify and track. Thales leverages decades of proven radar technology offering a wide range of surface radars to protect the people who protect us. These radars feature a unique combination of benefits. We use digital beam forming technology to generate the most accurate, up-to-date Recognised Air Picture (RAP). We rely on Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology which considerably reduce the heat produced by radars, requiring simpler cooling systems and resulting in a smaller radar footprint. Scalability is key in fast-paced operational environments where threats and counter-strategies are in constant evolution. Thales’ surface radars are software-defined, meaning it is easy to update and upgrade new solutions in order to ensure detection capabilities are always one-step ahead.
Similarly, in a world where Navies are facing growing and sometimes unexpected threats and challenges, Mine Warfare remains a key discipline. Navies need trustworthy autonomous technologies for effectiveness and most importantly, safety at sea. Advanced technologies which can be personalised such as Pathmaster unmanned Maritime Counter Measure (MCM) combine real time user experience using big data exchanges with trusted augmented artificial intelligence to provide operation clearance.
What are your most prominent projects for the next stage?
In the region and more specifically in the UAE, we would like to develop the industry even more, education and innovation in order to localize our programs. To develop centers of excellence as part of Thales Emarat Technologies strategy for the UAE and for the region.
Do you want to send any message to the defense community in general, or in the UAE in particular?
I would like to say that we are truly proud to be present in the UAE through the creation of Thales Emarat Technologies, which solidifies the commitment that Thales has made to the leadership of the country.
Today we offer UAE Nationals career choices that answers their ambitions and positive outlook in paving the way for a prosperous and positive future. Thales Emarat Technologies offers career choices to Emirati youth and experts that contribute in realizing the vision and aspirations of the country leadership.
Over the last year, we have ramped up operations, this includes the inauguration of our radar centre of excellence in partnership with Tawazun, with whom we also work with on an internship program, Sustain and Enhance Emiratisation in Defence and Security (SEEDS). SEEDS aims at elevating national capabilities through offering international exposure opportunities with leading international companies operating in the defense and security industry.
We have also signed and MoU with Hub71 to support the development of the UAE’s innovation and education ecosystem. The reputable entities aim to bring together expertise from the industrial world, with the dynamism of Abu Dhabi’s global technology ecosystem, Hub71, and local knowledge from universities to develop new technologies, leading to disruptive products and systems. As part of the agreement, Thales Emarat Technologies will work closely with Hub71 start-ups and other ecosystem members over the coming years to discuss and identify various collaboration opportunities on several civil and defence topics such as Industry 4.0 and radars.
Recognising that human capital is a scarce recourse, TET is committed to investing in it by hiring and training highly skilled local workforce. To attract and retain young national talent, we work closely with educational bodies, colleges and universities. This training model will have a positive knock-on effect on the country’s local talent pool, supporting the future of the UAE economy and sovereignty
What are your company future plans?
Our main objectives in the UAE are to grow industry through centers of Excellence and Industrial operations. We also want to continue to partner locally on innovation, investing in research & development, digital transformation and transfer of knowledge. And last, but not least, continue our focus on education through local partnerships, training, diversity & inclusion allowing our talents to develop their creativity and grow their expertise.
How do you rate your recent experience and participation in IDEX 2021, and did it meet your expectations?
IDEX is one of the most recognised international defence exhibitions and conferences in the world and demonstrates the latest technologies across land, sea and air defence sectors.
It is a place where we can establish and strengthen relationships with government departments, businesses and armed forces throughout the region.
Our experience in IDEX 2021 was very satisfying for Thales in terms of organization and meeting with UAE, regional and international delegations. As a global leader in defence and high technology, and as a long-term partner of the UAE armed forces, we attended and supported the exhibition as we have done for many years. As one of the rare shows to happen in 2021 globally, it was a pleasure to attend. It gave us a unique chance to showcase our strategy of industry, education and innovation, in the country, and is testament to our support of the UAE.
Would you like to send any message through Al Jundi Journal to the defense community in the UAE and the GCC?
As mentioned above, integrated air and missile defence is a crucial topic for nations. Thales radars protect airspace, citizens and assets, covering the full spectrum of Air surveillance and Air Defence Radars for today’s and tomorrow’s threats from stealth aircraft, hypersonic missiles, Theatre Ballistic Missiles (TBM), to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Thales solutions provide safety and security at all levels of the airspace both military and civil. When it comes to the lower airspace management, we work in close collaboration with the armed forces and security or institutional leaders. We have proven delivery of complex UAV solutions for both military and civilian requirements through procurement and service contracts. We have technical knowledge and experience for efficient, safe, and regulatory compliant operations. We have Unmanned Traffic Management expertise, which complements our recognised leadership position in Air Traffic Management. Our Counter Unmanned Aerial Vehicles measures are derived from our military expertise and enhanced by partnerships with small & medium companies around the world. Knowing the fast-evolving technologies and threats, we on-board smaller partners and share our understanding of the whole ecosystem, to define, deliver and support the most effective solutions whatever the need.
How do you see the company changing in two years?
As planned, we will continue to grow our local capabilities in the UAE through Thales Emarat Technologies to support the UAE Vision 2030. 11.What Are Your recent 3 biggest accomplishments in the defense sector?
I would mention few of our biggest accomplishments, as it is the result of our expertise and the excellence of the solutions we develop and provide:
• Thales has sold more than 1,200 air defence and air surveillance radars in 26 countries.
• Thales has sold over 450 mobile integrated weapon systems around the world.
• Thales is one of the only company able to deliver a fully integrated air defence capability, from radars and C2 centres to effectors and their respective fire control systems.
• Thales provides more than 80% of the Rafale fighter optronic suite.
• Thales has sold 110 000-night vision googles, and 16 000 hand held thermal imagers to 55 countries.
In the civilian sector, we do have great accomplishments as well:
• Two out of three aircraft in the world take off and land using Thales equipment.
• Air traffic control centres equipped by Thales cover more than 40% of the world’s airspace.
Interviewed by: Jassem Shahin Photography by: Mohammed Al Shaer