Paris, Thursday, October 24, 2019 – During a 2-hour flight the crew of the first upgraded Atlantic 2 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (ATL2) presented the new capabilities of the aircraft to the Minister of the Armed Forces.
The General Armaments Directorate (DGA) authorized this summer the transfer of the first two ATL2 upgraded to the new standard 6 on the naval base of Lann-Bihoué (Morbihan). This transfer marks the end of the development trials of the ATL2 upgrade programme.
To cope with the increase of the submarine threat in our areas of interest, the 2019-2025 military programming law extended the upgrade programme to 18 ATL2s compared to the initial 15. The 18 upgraded aircraft will be delivered to the French Navy by 2024.
ATL2s are very long range maritime patrol aircraft, primarily aimed at the control of the air-sea environment fighting against submarine and surface ships, from the littoral zone to the open sea. They can also provide support to air-land operations through their ability to conduct intelligence actions and ground strikes. The Navy currently owns 22 ATL2s, all based in Lann-Bihoué.
The ATL2 fleet upgrade programme was notified at the end of 2013 by the DGA, the contracting authority, to Dassault Aviation and Thales. It allows these aircraft to reach the performances required to carry out their operational missions until their withdrawal from service scheduled after 2030. The upgrade to standard 6 is carried out in parallel by Dassault Aviation (6 aircraft in addition to the prototype) and the Aeronautical Industry Service (SIAé) of the Ministry of the Armed Forces (11 aircraft).
Apart from treating the obsolescence of an aircraft designed in the 1980s, the upgrade focuses on the replacement of some systems with digital equipment based on state of the art technologies: tactical computer, optronic and acoustic sensors, operators’ consoles, radar. In particular, the new Searchmaster radar benefits from the active antenna technology developed by Thales for the Rafale. Naval Group is also working on the information processing software, while the SIAé is replacing the visualization consoles.
The prototype and the first series, which arrived at Lann-Bihoué respectively on July 18 and August 27, fitted with the final software version, have been thoroughly tested by an integrated team associating the DGA Flight Tests center of expertise, the Navy center of practical experiments and acceptance of naval aviation (CEPA /10S), and Dassault Aviation.
The Navy operational testing started at Istres in parallel with the last testing phase, continuing in Lorient during the last contractual verifications carried out by the DGA for qualification purposes. Operational testing aims at developing the tactics to best exploit the new capabilities of the aircraft.
The operational deployent of standard 6 aircraft is scheduled for late 2021, following crew training, the transformation of a first batch of aircraft, and the delivery of the next-generation tactical training land simulator (SIMTAC NG), which is being deveòloped. under DGA guidance.
Photo courtesy Dassault Aviation – S. Randé