Thales response to Defence Committee inquiry: The Navy purpose and procurement


Thales is a global technology business operating across the Aerospace, Defence, Digital Identity and Security, Space and Transport sectors. In 2017, Thales contributed over £1.7 billion to the UK’s GDP, supported over 27,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs and the average productivity of a Thales employee was over 40% higher than the national average. We pride ourselves on bringing high tech jobs that drive balanced, sustainable growth, and contribute to building inclusive economies, and delivering prosperity to people everywhere across the UK.

Thales UK has a strong maritime offer- with a customer base of over 50 navies worldwide- that reflects our heritage as the sole supplier of periscopes and optronic masts to the Royal Navy for over 100 years to supporting our customers to deliver future technologies and innovation including through our transformative Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) programme.

Our single biggest offering we provide to the Royal Navy is sensing systems, which range from sonar, radar, electronic warfare capabilities, optics and optronics; we pride ourselves on being the eyes and ears of the Royal Navy. This pedigree has been supported by an export record that has given us the resources to continue to develop our solutions and systems for the Royal Navy, ensuring that they are at the cutting edge.

Although acknowledged, the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSBS) stopped short of recognising the totality of the “shipbuilding” industry, such as systems; these are a real jewel in the crown of the UK and yet have not been properly considered in terms of Suitably Qualified and Experience Personnel (SQEP) or prosperity, nor as a primary international differentiator in export sales of naval ships. The oversight of this area is something that we hope the NSBS refresh will address.

Part 1 – What is the UK’s ambition for the Navy’s role over the next 20 years?

  1. What naval threats is the UK likely to face and what standing commitments, including for NATO and UK Overseas Territories, does the government intend the Navy to undertake? In particular what is the implication of a tilt to the Indo-Pacific?


  1. What naval forces (vessels, capabilities and bases) are required to combat these threats and to deliver these standing commitments? What are the implications of cooperation with vessels from allied nations, for example allied vessels participating in carrier strike groups?



Part 2 – Are naval procurement and support plans delivering the capabilities required for this role?

  1.                The Navy’s Hunt and Sandown Mine Counter Measure Vessels will be replaced by an Autonomous Mine Hunting Capability currently under development. How likely is this to be able to replicate the vessels’ full contribution, including to partnerships with allies through deployments like Op KIPION, by the time they reach retirement in the early 2030s and what are the implications if it does not?


  1.                Is the UK’s domestic shipbuilding industry able to fulfil its role in delivering the country’s naval capabilities? What has been the effect of the National Shipbuilding Strategy? Does the government’s decision in the Defence Industrial Strategy to determine whether to invite foreign competition on a case-by-case basis (rather than just for warships) increase or decrease the opportunities for UK shipbuilding? What will industry need to see in the government’s forthcoming update to the National Shipbuilding Strategy and 30-year plan for Naval and other government-owned vessels?


  1.                How realistic are proposed exports of Type 26 and Type 31 frigate designs and what effect would they have on costs of the frigates for the UK? Since most foreign buyers will seek to produce ships domestically, how much value are these export deals likely to deliver to UK shipbuilding?
  1.                The government’s Defence Industrial Strategy promises up to five Type 32 frigates and a new class Type 83 destroyer but no further details on these ships’ designs and roles have been provided: how can the government learn from previous programs in designing and delivering these two ships?






















[i] A digital twin is a model that recreates a real-world object or system in digital form. What makes digital twins so valuable is that they not only help you to understand what’s happening in the real world, but also to carry out experiments and explore “what if” scenarios.