November 29, 2011

Contract Award: Thales and EADS to enhance the French Armed Forces' geographic database system

News Report

As announced in a recent press release, the French geographic Institute IGN (Institut Géographique National), acting as the contracting authority on behalf of the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) of the French Ministry of Defence, has contracted Thales and Cassidian to carry out the second phase of the TopoBase Défense Operation. The goal of this operation is to produce data to feed into defence geographical databases.

The preparation and conduct of military operations require the Armed Forces to be able to rely on a cartographic reference that is pertinent and accessible to everyone in order to achieve an accurate shared assessment of the operational situation. For this reason IGN selected the Thales-Cassidian consortium with Thales acting as the prime contractor for the TopoBase Défense Operation. This operation is intended to set up an appropriate system for producing geographical data (e.g. vector databases, ortho-images, raster maps, etc.) to be fed into defence geographical databases.

The Thales-Cassidian consortium is responsible for the complete process, from receipt of requirements of the Armed Forces General Staff to quality control of the products. The process also includes drafting of specifications, definition of the production reference frame (procedures, tools, testing) and the management of subcontractors in order to guarantee the consistency and homogenity of the totality of TopoBase Défense products.

The purpose of the contract, which has a duration of six years, is to supply the French Armed forces General Staff with digitised geographical data required for the operation of numerous weapon and information systems. The use of data from the TopoBase Défense Operation, which guarantees consistency of geometry and format, also contributes to system interoperability.

The Technology

Today, modern Armed Forces no longer buy imagery alone, but a global capability to meet the specifications of complex products like DEMs (Digital Elevation Models), land-cover data and multiscale vector databases through internal or outsourced production lines. This guaranty is provided by Standalone, Multi-Source Data Kits, through which suppliers undertake to provide a coherent workflow able to generate a geospatial product or family of products.

This new approach was initiated in France by the DNG3D defence programme, starting in 2002 along with the launch of Reference3D©. This product contains a DEM basemap plus a highly reliable orthoimage that serve as a foundation for most subsequent value-added products. The DNG3D system takes raw data from a wide range of commercial and military observation sensors to provide national defence systems with high-quality, high-precision geographical data.

Since 2005, the TopoBase Défense Operation (within the frame of the Multinational Geospatial Co-production Programme), ensures the industrial-scale production of a complete range of raster and vector geospatial products using imagery from 12 civil and military satellites. TopoBase is primarily a vector database with an approximate scale of 1/50 000, which also includes background images and digital terrain models that can be used by existing weapons systems.

The Context

The technological revolution that has resulted from the explosion in the use of digital technologies in the civilian world has put information at the very heart of the instruments of power. Mastery of information is one of the major capabilities to be acquired. Knowledge of the terrain over which operations will be conducted is a prerequisite for their success; armed forces must therefore be able to gather, process and distribute the geographical information needed for the proper functioning of the command and weapon systems that equip the forces engaged; this applies equally to the projection of forces or of power, characterised respectively by the deployment or otherwise of a significant number of troops on the ground.

In this new context, armed forces are called on to operate at short notice with significant dispersion of their units in remote, little known and extended theatres. This means that availability of geographical information must be improved and a large database must be created to cover regions where even mapping data may be lacking.

In 1996 the French Defence Ministry responded to this requirement with the launch of a dedicated defence programme: DNG3D (Données Numériques Géographiques et 3 Dimensions = 3D Digital Geographical Data). The DNG3D programme aimed at offering a collection system from appropriate sources, including image sources, both civil and military (primarily satellite-generated); ourchase of off-the-shelf geographical products, as well as Inter-allied procurement of geographical sources or products.

The first phase of the TopoBase Défense Operation was awarded by the DGA to the Thales-Cassidian consortium in 2005 under the DNG3D programme.


"I am very proud that the DGA has renewed its confidence in the Thales-Cassidian consortium after awarding us the first part of the TopoBase Défense Operation and the Deployable Geographic Modules project," commented Jean-Michel Lagarde, Thales Vice-President, in charge of Protection Systems. "This success is attributable to the strong complementarity between the know-how of Thales and Cassidian, and to the creation of multiple partnerships with highly innovative European SMEs specialised in geomatics. A total of nearly 150 people are combining their skills to ensure the success of this operation."

"Global information control and knowledge of the terrain constitute a crucial force multiplier for the General Staff. That is why our company is particularly proud of the confidence displayed by the IGN through its selection," added Franck Calvet, Vice-President of "Integrated Systems" at Cassidian

References: EADS (1), (2), Thales (3), ixarm (4)

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