France launches electronic warfare programme

The Ministre des Armées (French Armed Forces Ministry) announced on February 28 it will launch development of a new strategic intelligence aircraft programme, the heart of which will be the Capacité Universelle de Guerre Electronique (CUGE, Universal Electronic Warfare Capacity), developed by Thales under the Epicure programme. The CUGE system will be installed in three Dassault Aviation Falcon business jets, although the exact variant is yet to be announced. The French Government said that the system, which has been under development for a decade, will allow simultaneous interception of radio and radar emissions.

The three Falcon aircraft will replace the Armée de l’air’s two Transall C-160G Gabriel signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft from 2025. The specially modified Transalls are operated by Escadron Electronique Aéroporté 1/54 ‘Dunkerque’, currently based at Evreux - Fauville. Dassault Aviation said that the required level of performance expected of the Epicure Falcons will require highly complex integration work.

Eric Trappier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dassault Aviation said: “I am very proud and happy with the decision of the Ministry of the Armed Forces. The Falcon Epicure will serve the French forces in the same way as the Falcon 10, 200, 50, 2000, 900 and 7X are already doing.”

Trapper continued: “The military Falcons provide the perfect illustration of the dual competencies of Dassault Aviation: Our civil aircraft benefit from the cuttingedge technologies developed for our combat aircraft, which in return benefit from the industrial processes deployed for the highly competitive production of the Falcon aircraft.” Thales said it also welcomed the French Government decision to integrate CUGE into the three Falcon Epicure aircraft, saying the new programme will provide enhanced intelligence gathering capabilities.

A Thales spokesperson said: “The growing importance of digital technologies is a tremendous opportunity for Thales to boost its capacity for innovation through advanced systems that leverage the power of big data, autonomous systems and immersive user experiences. With its expertise in the four key digital technologies – platform connectivity, big data, artificial intelligence and cyber security – Thales has a key role to play in these developments.”