SOFINS 2023 – Safran NavKite; a resilient PNT solution for French Navy Commandos

Paolo Valpolini

Safran NAVKITE has been developed in cooperation with the FUSCOLAB.

“Until now our commando fast multirole boats had only GNSS-based navigation systems, and to operate in GNSS-denied scenarios, which are those in which today we might be called to fight, we had to rely on old navigation methods,” Rear-Admiral Pierre de Briançon, who since September 2021 commands the Force Maritime des Fusiliers Marins et Commandos (Forfusco), the French Navy Commando Force, told EDR On-Line at the end of the unveiling ceremony of the Safran NAVKITE, which represents the solution for his units navigation issues.

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Three years ago the FUSCOLAB, the innovation lab for the French Commando, started thinking to a solution for ensuring resilient navigation capabilities for its units, the project being then financed by the COS (Commandement des Opérations Spéciales), the French joint SF HQ.

In 2021 at SOFINS, SAFRAN introduced its Geonyx M, an inertial navigation system designed to be used on naval vessels as well as on amphibious vehicles. Coupled to a GNSS navigation system it provides a good solution, however GNSS signal jamming and spoofing are common nowadays, therefore the development team added the VersaSync, Safran high performance GNSS master clock and network time server, which allows to immediately identify anomalies in the GNSS signal. When signal reliability falls under a set threshold the NAVKITE automatically switches off the GNSS, relying only on inertial navigation, until the signal is not clean enough to provide again  sufficient reliability and accuracy.

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Those three systems, adequately interfaced between them, adding ad-hoc algorithms, have been packed in a watertight case together with batteries that ensure full autonomy, the whole system being proven against vibrations and shocks that can be induced by a fast going craft in heavy sea conditions.

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The NAVKITE has been developed in cooperation with the aforementioned FUSCOLAB and with the SF operators of the Commando Ponchardier, who carried out the first tests out of the Lorient naval base.

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The system has been installed on the ECUME (Embarcation Commando à Usage Multiple Embarquable) multirole assault craft. In February 2023 the Commando took part in joint services exercise HEMEX, projecting a major engagement, during phase 2 of ORION, a large-scale operation for resilient, innovative and interoperable armed forces, focused on high-intensity conflicts. The system proved its value, providing accurate positioning, navigation and timing.

The NAVKITE case weighs 28 kg, however Safran is considering switching from current lead batteries to more advanced solutions, such as Li-Ion, which will allow a 9 kg weight saving.

According to Safran the system is attracting the interest of numerous countries, the most promising geographic area being Asia-Pacific where there is a high demand for resilient navigation systems.

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Photos courtesy Safran and P. Valpolini