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The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence has plans to recapitalize the Royal Navy’s maritime capabilities by combining two previous projects, the Radio Frequency RF and the Electronic surveillance and defensive aid, to create the Maritime Electronic Warfare Programme (MEWP). The MEWP illustrates the Royal Navy’s wish to lead in the area of electronic warfare and is a part of their intention to upgrade the whole United Kingdom’s Navy with over 70 new systems from 45 commercial partners in the forthcoming years.

The MEWP aims to upgrade the Royal Navy’s electronic warfare capabilities with state of the art equipment and cutting-edge technology. This programme is divided into two sections: the first step ‘Maritime Electronic Warfare System Integrated Capability’ (MEWSIC) which will deliver improvements in electronic surveillance, EW command and control (EWC2), and electronic warfare operational support (EWOS). The second phase is the Electronic Warfare Countermeasures (EWCM).

The MEWP takes over previous electronic warfare projects such as the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organization which had been pursuing standalone Maritime Electronic Warfare Surveillance System (MEWSS) and Defensive Aids Suite – Surface Ship (DASSS) programs. MEWSS was intended to deliver a next-generation ship borne electronic support measures (ESM) capability, whereas DAS-SS was focused on the provision of improved soft-kill coordination and new RF countermeasures, with an initial focal point on upgraded Electronic Warfare Command and Control (EWC2).

The MEWSS and DAS-SS merged into the MEWSIC and EWCM sub-projects, which alone have been valued between £250-400 million (€283-453 million). This effort is intended to deliver a coherent next-generation EW surveillance and soft-kill protection capability for RN Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers to address RF threats out to 2035. Other MEWP components are expected to be fitted on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship and the Type 31 light frigate in due course. For the moment, the MoD has not chosen its partners for MEWSIC, however Thales, BAE Systems, and CGI have teamed up against Lockheed Martin UK and Elbit Martin Systems UK to win the contract.

For the moment, the MEWP is still in its market research stage, more particularly in the Royal Navy’s Electronic warfare submarines capabilities area. In recent official documents, the MoD confirmed the scheduled start date of award procedures (2022) for the Future Submarine Warfare Surveillance System (F-SEWSS) and the Maritime Electronic Warfare Surveillance System L (MEWSS-L) projects, comprising in a first step of market research through Requests for Information which encompasses all Technology Readiness Levels from early developmental considerations to Commercial and Military Off The Shelf (COTS/MOTS).

Regarding the second phase, the EWCM, Electronic Warfare Countermeasures (EWCM) Request For Information initiated by the DE&S, confirms that market research for the second sub-phase, Balanced Countermeasures Suite Study (BCM2) has begun.

Adjacent projects funded by the MoD in Electronic warfare are also in the works. The MoD awarded an initial 5-year contract back in 2016, to Leonardo Airborne & Space Systems Division (£1-18.4 million – €1.3-20.78 million), BAE Systems Applied Intelligence (£11.6-19.7 million – €13.1-22.24 million), Atlas Elektronik UK (£2.1-12.4 million – €2.37 -14.1 million), and QinetiQ (£5-9.5 million – €5.6-10.7 million), for electronic warfare, cyber research, and technology, as one of the four core capacity packages. The aim is to provide a rapid tasking route to stimulate market performance and to increase external capabilities to ensure national EW&C capability for the MoD and wider UK government priorities.


Written by Alexandra Stafferton (Junior Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence


December 2017, the French aerospace company Thales and the digital security firm Gemalto (secure software, biometrics and encryption for businesses and governments to authenticate identities and protect data), jointly announced the agreement on a recommended all-cash offer for all issued and outstanding ordinary shares for Gemalto (€51 per share). The waiting period has been extended until 15th August 2018.

Thales will combine its digital businesses into Gemalto, which will continue to operate under its own brand as one of Thales’ seven global business units. By acquiring Gemalto, Thales adds around €3 billion of revenue for 2018 to its digital business sales and acquires a set of technologies and competencies which have applications across Thales’ five vertical markets (Aeronautics, Space, Ground transportation, Defence and Security).

The combination of the two signifies that the French-Dutch company Gemalto will return under the French flag as Thales takes its shares. The digital security firm is currently based in Amsterdam and run by top Chief Executive Officer Philippe Vallée (since 2016) and Non-executive Chairman Alex Mandl. The company was launched back in 2005, after a merger of Axalto and Gemplus. The governing principle between these digital firms is the current Gemalto’s NEC: Alex Mandl, as he was also CEO of Gemplus, In-Q-tel, and former CIA employee. As a reminder In-Q-tel is an American non-profit firm created to support American intelligence agencies such as the CIA, and funds amongst others Palantir Technologies (Data Analytics), Recorded Future (Predictive Analytics), and Interset (Security Analytics).  Therefore, he will continue to play a crucial part with the French CEO in the governance, direction, and intelligence of the company within the merger with Thales.

Gemalto’s unrivalled and innovative technology portfolio will put Thales in a highly differentiated position to provide not only to enterprises and government agencies but also implement gradually new security and technologies within its own different markets.

Thales’ interest in acquiring Gemalto reflects its recognition of several opportunities such as securing the American 3M’s Identity Management business which specialises in biometric technology, after losing the Safran Morpho deal to Oberthur Technologies (U.S. IDEMIA), and announced in 2017 new on-demand connectivity deals with consumer device makers like Microsoft, industrial players such as the PSA Group, and mobile operators like AT&T and Telefonica (see table below).

All in all, whilst Gemalto will appear under the French flag just like Morpho, it seems in reality to be highly influenced by American direction by reason of Alex Mandl, and its affiliation with its new U.S. subsidiary 3M.

From Thales’ point of view, acquiring Gemalto represents first and foremost an acceleration of its digital strategy: over the past three years, the aerospace company has significantly increased its focus on digital technologies, investing over €1 billion in connectivity, cybersecurity, data analytics and artificial intelligence, in particular with the acquisition of Guavus, Sysgo, and Vormetric.

In addition, further indications of Thales’ interest for digital security within the defence environment can be seen through its participation in the French “Matrice” program with the “Hackathon” project (“hacker” and “marathon”) which is now in its second year. Thales has partnered up with the French Navy and “l’Ecole 42” to create a 3-day competition for students to develop a collaborative sharing tool intended to feed a specific cloud for maritime users. This initiative represents the new direction the French Defence and Maritime industry is taking, notably with the Thales-Gemalto partnership leading the way.


Written by Alexandra Stafferton (Junior Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence


The Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT), a division of Armscor Defence Institutes, provides research-based technological development and systemic support to the South African Navy. Armscor is the acquisition agency for the South African Department of Defence however it has expanded its service offering to include the research and development of technologies that are marketed locally and internationally.

The IMT has evolved to provide services outside of the maritime domain to other South African National Defence Force (SANDF) structures. State-owned defence-related research institutions in South African at times collaborate and are involved in the transfer of technology from military to civilian applications. An example of this is IMT’s Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detector (UBRD), initially developed to detect cracks on submarines by utilizing sensor technology. The UBRD was developed by Armscor in close collaboration with Transnet and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who provided the transducer for the system. The UBRD detects breaks in railway tracks under any and harsh environmental conditions. The system is easy to install and maintain and does not require track modification, fitting of track bonds, or trenching. The system’s signal processing and diagnostic techniques ensure reliable operation and section coverage of up to 1000 meters.

The UBRD system operates with transmitters and receivers whereby an acoustic signal is generated and inserted in the rail at one location (transmitter), broadcasted along the rail, and received at a remote location (receiver). The integrity of the rail between the transmitter and receiver is in check as long as a signal is received. If the rail develops a clean break between the transmitter and receiver, the signal will not be received resulting in the triggering of an alarm.


UBRD System Components:

  • Transmitter module
  • Receiver module
  • Cabinet with power supply and communication equipment
  • Ultrasonic transducer and cable
  • Rail clamp
  • Alarm terminal


UBRD System Features:

  • Detection of clean breaks
  • Detection of large flaws
  • Notification of train presence
  • Continuous operation
  • Full rail coverage
  • Remote sensing of equipment failures
  • Scan intervals down to a few minutes
  • Robust, rust free components
  • Suitable for solar powered operation
  • Field proven reliability


Since its installation on South African state-owned company Transnet’s iron ore line in 2014, the UBRD has detected several rail breaks on the 846 km line running from Sishen to Saldanha, saving Transnet millions in potential damage costs. Armscor, Transnet, and the CSIR (for the transducer) are collaborating in developing a new generation UBRD, which is set to be even more cost-effective and efficient with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) mostly funding the research.

Armscor is promoting the UBRD internationally and there has been much interest from rail users such as India. India hosts the fourth longest rail network in the world with an operating route length of more than 65 000 km. The rail network is owned and operated by state-owned Indian Railways. The UBRD was tested in India at two different points on a 25 km stretch between Allahabad and Kanpur, and in the Moradabad Division. In its Annual Report for 2016/2017, Armscor reported that the requirement from Indian Railways will more than likely be for the UBRD to cover approximately 2000 km per annum. The UBRD is a positive example of collaboration and what could be achieved if South African research institutions and government entities worked together on projects of interest.


Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA



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