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French Military Select Thales Alenia Space To Build ISR Psuedo-Satellite Airship

An artistic representation of the Thales Alenia Space Stratobus psuedosatellite. Image courtesy of Thales Alenia Space.

Thales Alenia Space (the joint venture between Thales, 67% and Leonardo, 33%) and Thales have signed a contract with The French defense procurement agency Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) to carry out a concept study concerning intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) applications using a StratobusTM type platform to meet French army operational needs.

The aim of the contract is to study the benefits of continuous stratospheric platforms to improve and expand France’s defense capabilities. More specifically, the contract includes studies of:

  • An operational concept study for an ISR mission including exercises simulating its use in theaters of operation;
  • A full-scale demonstrator concept, capable of flying in the stratosphere to demonstrate the in-flight performance of an ISR mission of this type.

StratobusTM type stratospheric solutions offer two main advantages:

  • It significantly increases the area monitored by a single platform, especially by eliminating terrain masking;
  • It offers an ability to linger over an area, thus improving resilience in relation to current naval, airborne, ground and space solutions.

“The aim of this contract is to assess the relevance of StratobusTM type continuous stratospheric solutions to meet defense needs, and also marks a major step forward in the definition of a possible operational solution in conjunction with users” said Jean-Philippe Chessel, Director of the StratobusTM product line. “It will enable us to prepare the foundations for the development of a complete solution, including high-reliability autonomous avionics, as well as all control aspects. We are aiming to carry out a flight demonstration by the end of 2023. The StratobusTM project has been supported by the French government from the outset within the scope of the Investment in the Future plan and a European regional development fund (FEDER) for the French Riviera region.”

Thales Alenia Space’s StratobusTM is an autonomous stratospheric airship in the HAPS [High Altitude Platform System] category, operating from an altitude of 20 kilometers. Offering continuous regional coverage, it’s a perfect fit with satellite solutions. StratobusTM can carry payloads for the surveillance of borders and high-value sites on the ground or at sea (such as video-surveillance of offshore platforms), as well as security (the fight against terrorism, drug-trafficking, etc.), environmental monitoring (forest fires, beach erosion, pollution, etc.) and communications (internet, 5G).

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