Thales Alenia Space and Thales have signed a contract with the French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) to carry out a concept study concerning intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) applications using a Stratobus 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.
Stratobus 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 Stratobus 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 Stratobus 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 Stratobus 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 is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%).
Stratobus is a concept for an autonomous stratospheric platform, midway between a satellite and a drone. The project was selected by the French Ministry of Industry and Digital Technology within the scope of the New Industrial France program and is being carried out with a group of partners, including Airstar Aerospace and CEA-Liten. Thales Alenia Space is the industrial prime contractor.
Stratobus is a 5-ton airship, operating at an altitude of about 20 kilometers (above the airspace dedicated to air traffic and the jet stream), that can host payloads of 250 kg and provide 5 kW of power. It will be 100 meters long, 33 meters maximum diameter, and offer a lifespan in the stratosphere of five years. Stratobus has been endorsed by the Pégase competitiveness cluster, in charge of launching a dirigible industry in France.