05 Sep 2017

Thales celebrate a century of submarine innovation

A firm of Glaswegian engineers has celebrated a century as the sole supplier of periscope and optronics masts to Royal Navy submarines.

Govan-based Thales delivered its first submarine periscope – the FY1 – to the submarine M3 in 1917. Ever since, each class of Royal Navy submarine has been fitted with a periscope or optronics mast designed and built by Thales’ engineers.

Today, those state-of-the-art optronics masts support submarine navigation, warfare and communications systems, furnishing them with thermal imaging and night vision capabilities.

The masts themselves are able to sweep a full 360 degrees in a matter of seconds, providing battle commanders with high definition images of the space before they have the opportunity to be noticed.

Defence Procurement Minister, Harriett Baldwin said: “This anniversary marks a proud record of Scottish engineering contributing directly to UK defence and national security by providing the eyes and ears for our nuclear deterrent and attack submarines.

“Generations of highly skilled engineers across Scotland have applied battle winning technologies to meet the needs of their UK armed forces, as well as exporting their innovations to dozens of navies around the world.”

Victor Chavez, CEO, Thales UK, added: “Arguably our greatest single innovation was introducing a night vision capability to allow submarines to navigate and gather intelligence 24/7.”

“However, our latest full remote control, non-hull penetrating optronics systems give naval architects more design flexibility by not restricting them to co-locating the fin and the control room via a 50ft long periscope. These options, combined with the digital inboard control and display system, provide commanders with a leap forward in submarine capability.”

Housed in the conning tower or ‘fin’, an optronics mast is an electronic imaging system that does not penetrate a submarine’s hull. They have been specified for all seven of the new Astute Class submarines, the first three of which are already in service from HM Naval Base Clyde.

Thales is currently bidding competitively to have their optronics masts procured for the BAE Systems Maritime build of four new Dreadnought nuclear deterrent submarines. These will enter into service during the 2030s, and the company will conduct sea trials of their latest mast in 2018.

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