Published 02 February 2024

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UK security will be boosted through a vast new contract we have awarded – worth nearly £2 billion – that will ensure the long-term availability and resilience of critical assets used by Royal Navy ships and submarines over the next 15 years.

Announced by Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, the Marine Sensor Enhancement Team (MSET) contract with Thales UK will aim to provide full availability of the equipment that is the eyes and ears of the Royal Navy.

Utilising data technology, including AI and virtual reality to be more proactive, and predictive maintenance systems, the contract will see the Royal Navy maximise the days they are ready to deploy.

The contract will support sonar – the ability to hear underneath the water – masts, periscopes and also electronic warfare equipment that enables the Royal Navy to detect and target potential threats.

Crucially, increasing the longevity of sensor and sonar capability significantly increases equipment availability which is critical for the Continuous at Sea Deterrent (CASD) and wider ship and submarine capabilities.

Around 300 UK jobs from the previous Thales UK support contract will be sustained with a further 150 STEM jobs, including highly skilled engineering roles and apprenticeships, created across Devonport, Faslane, Glasgow, Portsmouth, Cheadle, Crawley and Bristol.

This contract also safeguards jobs from across an extensive UK supply chain.

Vice Admiral Paul Marshall, Director General Ships at DE&S, said:

“I am delighted we have been able to secure a 15-year contract with Thales UK that will ensure the long-term support for major sonar, mast, periscope and electronic warfare equipment that are critical for Ship and Submarine capabilities.

“Achieving this notable milestone is testament to the tremendous effort from all involved, both DE&S and Thales, where there has been determined focus on establishing long-term efficiencies and improvements that are vital to improving overall equipment availability.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“In a time of global instability, it is imperative we minimise the time our ships and submarines are out for maintenance.

“This is another partnership with Thales UK and our outstanding UK defence sector that not only boosts national security but provides a boost to local communities and helps fuel economic growth.”

The contract will also improve the facilities at HMNB Devonport, Faslane, Portsmouth and Bahrain and delivers advanced test and repair capabilities. This enhanced waterfront presence will allow equipment to be triaged at source, thereby enabling rapid improvements in fault diagnosis, thereby reducing repair times.

The Defence Secretary’s visit to HMNB Devonport follows a £750 million funding boost to the naval base, announced in November 2023, that will significantly improve the infrastructure. Creating around 1,000 construction roles, the work will also support maintenance of existing and future submarines, and enhance the dockyard’s ability to deliver major defence projects.

The South West recently became the country’s Marine and Maritime Launchpad, recognising its leadership in the sector. The area will receive an additional £7.5 million in funding to support outstanding innovation projects within maritime. The shipbuilding enterprise directly supports over 43,000 jobs across the country, with over 19,000 employed in the South West alone.

Alex Cresswell, Chairman and CEO of Thales in the UK, said:

“Thales is delighted to strengthen our century long partnership with the Royal Navy, and support its vital role in defending the UK and keeping the world’s critical sea lanes open.

“This £1.8 Billion contract with Thales will help keep more Royal Navy ships at sea for longer, by harnessing the latest developments in artificial intelligence, data analysis and improved dockland facilities.”

Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Martin Connell said:

“The warships and submarines of the Royal Navy rely on the latest cutting-edge sensors and sonars to give us a key warfighting edge.

“The new contract is a significant commitment from the MoD and Thales-UK to improving the availability of our equipment, maximising its effectiveness and enabling the Royal Navy to operate with confidence.

“This significant investment in our ship and submarine sensors will ensure our equipment is at the cutting edge of technology.”