Thales has received a contract from the French defence procurement agency (DGA) for the supply of advanced tactical radio systems to the country’s armed forces as part of the tactical and theatre digital communications (CONTACT) programme.

The initial deal is worth €263m, under which the company will supply a total of 2,400 vehicles and 2,000 portable radios.

Thales chairman and CEO Luc Vigneron said that the theatre communications system would provide the French forces with the joint communications capabilities required for effectively accomplishing their missions.

"The CONTACT programme is strategically important for the French armed forces and key to France’s national sovereignty," he said. "It also provides a solid framework for the future development of software-defined radio at the international level."

According to Thales, the radios are designed to be interoperable with the existing PR4G models and will have faster transmission speeds, enhanced security and extended interoperability with other nation’s communication systems to support coalition operations.

"The CONTACT programme is strategically important for the French armed forces and key to France’s national sovereignty.”

Development work under the contract will be mainly performed in Paris and at Cholet, while production will be carried out at Cholet and Brive in France, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2018.

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The €1.06bn CONTACT programme aims to develop software radios and waveforms with high operational value to support armed forces’ transition to the digitised battleground that increases reliance on C4I, video transmissions and other value-added services during multinational operations.

The programme uses software-defined radio technology and builds on the work of the European secure software defined radio (ESSOR) programme, jointly conducted by Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden under the control of the European Defence Agency (EDA).

The second phase of the programme aims to equip combat, intelligence and transport aircraft, while the third will cover communication needs of air and naval task forces.