Knowing the Thales TACTICOS Combat Management System

Understanding the nature of Combat Management Systems is one thing to consider when it comes to knowing combat warships. Being used by numerous navies of the world, this product from a certain French Company gains reputation where various people sought to integrate it on naval combatants therein.

The architecture or structure of Thales TACTICOS in a ship.
From Thales Nederlands Presentation.

On the previous topics here on Pitz Defense Analysis Website, we discussed about the South Korean company Hanwha and its product the Naval Shield ICMS where it was agreed by both Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and Department of National Defense - Philippines (DND) that such Combat Management System is to be used on the future Philippine Frigates with HHI project numbers P-159 and P-160.

Read related article: Knowing the Hanwha Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System

This system was partially offered by India's Garden Reach Shipbuilding and Engineering (GRSE) and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) throughout the bid of the frigates wherein the former have the lowest bid amount. However, it was taken note that Hyundai won the bid where contract signing took place October 24, 2016

At first, Hyundai is adamant that they were offering the Thales TACTICOS as the primary Combat Management System for the ships. However, the said company switched it with the Hanwha Naval Shield ICMS in which subsystems are also being switched along which it sparked arguments on both sides of the equation in which apparently speaking, it was presumed that it violated R.A. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2002

The said switch was also the reason of the surprise reports that the Flag Officer in Chief (FOIC) of the Navy Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado was removed from the said position before his retirement on March 2018 as the result of Defense Secretary Lorenzana's loss of confidence and trust over the Vice Admiral where it was tantamount to insubordination. 

To take note once more, this article is not meant to add more fuel to the already-raging fire that has swept across the defense community where varying opinions are sprouting all over as well as having arguments with regards to the said issue.

Instead, this article focuses more on this product of a certain European defense firm which gains its own reputation with numerous navies using it as well as its reliability being known across the defense community. That is the Thales TACTICOS Combat Management System.

These are the ships in the class across various navies that uses
Thales TACTICOS as a CMS. Hence, it's great reputation.

At present, Thales claims that their product is on-board 160 ships of various classes and sizes that are serving around 20 navies of the world. These are ranging from small patrol boats to large destroyers serving the United States Navy, Denmark Navy, Colombian Navy, Indonesian Navy, Japanese Navy, and apparently speaking, several ships in the Korean Navy like Gwanggaeto the Great class destroyer and Dokdo-class Helicopter Carrier which apparently speaking, partly as the result of the Samsung Thales development where Naval Shield derived upon.

For a brief review, it was taken note that the Hanwha Naval Shield was derived from the TACTICOS Baseline 0 which it was indigenously improved until it reaches its form at the present moment. By that nature alone, the former was influenced by the latter which at present provides the backbone for the Korean Navy to obtain. However, it is also worthy to take note that the number of users Hanwha Naval Shield presently obtains does not go at par to the immense number of the users that Thales TACTICOS have. This was one of the arguments that the Philippine Navy presented in its so-called "position paper" provided by another defense page.

The TACTICOS' number of users was used as an argument
in the Navy Position Paper. Obtained via MaxDefense PH.

However, such stance was definitely set aside with Hyundai Heavy Industries providing the Hanwha Naval Shield ICMS for the Philippine Frigates. Nevertheless, despite those things, Thales provides these systems across ASEAN in particular Malaysia with its Katsuri-class Corvette, Thailand with its Krabi, T991 and T994-class patrol boats as well as Khamronsin-class corvettes and Indonesia through its Diponegoro-class corvettes and Martadinata-class [PKR 10514] frigates, both Sigma-derived vessels built by both Damen Schelde and PT PAL.

Hence, the system given this information provided is trusted among key ASEAN navies aforementioned alongside other nations that used it. To understand the rationale behind its success and overwhelming reputation, it is worthy to understand the company and the development of TACTICOS.

Read the article: Thales TACTICOS PDF file.

Let us take note once again even way back to the Hanwha Naval Shield ICMS discussion that the composition of a Combat Management System or its compatibility depends on the design of the ship or the specifications a certain navy is looking after for its combat fleet. And with Thales TACTICOS used across various navies, it can be said that it comes with different system components which varies across different classes of the ship as well as on the specifications that rely on the end user's necessity or need.

The said combat management system was produced by a Thales Subsidiary named as the Thales Nederlands B.V. which is situated in the town of Hengelo, Netherlands. In its history, it was started in 1922 as the NV Hazemeyer's Fabriek van Signaalapparaten which purpose is to produce fire control systems for Royal Netherland Navy ships HRMS Java and HRMS Sumatra. The company was co-owned by Floris Hazemeyer and then Siemens & Halske which is simply known as Siemens at present.

The company continued while being in exile throughout the Second World War as the German Wehrmacht invaded the whole of the Netherlands which was known back then as Holland. After the conflict, it continued under the name N.V. Hollandsche Signaalapparaten (or simply, Signaal) which was once owned by the Netherland Government and then Phillips where it retains as it is throughout the Cold War while improving their technology. It was at then at the downfall of the Iron Curtain in the East that Phillips decided to end its ownership over Signaal where it met its current owner Thales which was once known as Thomson-CSF.

The history of TACTICOS traces back to the early nineties where it was known back then as "SEWACO/TACTICOS" or say, SEWACO is abbreviated from its longer name, the "SEnsor, WeApon, and COmmand" subsystem. This was designed to what defines a combat management system which is to gather combat or tactical information from the ship's sensors (radar and sonar) and to assess the threat it posed to the vessel where the people on board will have time to thwart the threat as well as to retaliate against the threat upon the discretion of the commanding officer or someone higher at the chain of command. 

Its brain was called the STACOS or Signaal TActical COmmand System where its name derives from what Thales Nederlands is before which is the Signaal. The subsystem provides the complexities of this combat management system that defines its nature at present where variants of SEWACO was produced upon until what it is known today as the TACTICOS. 

See data: Evolution from SEWACO to SEWACO-FD and eventually, Thales TACTICOS - Forecast International Document dated November 2004. 

This company produces a number of things especially for naval vessels like the Thales TACTICOS. In fact, there are a number of Thales-based products that are proposed on the Frigate bid done by both Garden Reach Shipbuilding and Engineering and Hyundai Heavy Industries with the latter simply changed it later on in favor to other systems with Hanwha Naval Shield being its Combat Management System.

Frigate Acquisition Project, HDF-2600, Philippine Navy, Hyundai Heavy Industries
This is the specs first offered by Hyundai before the revisions.
Check the number of Thales systems in the infographic.
(Photo from Hyundai, Infographic made by Pitz Defense Analysis
with information obtained from MaxDefense)
As given on the diagram above that was provided upon with details given about the ship, the partial specifications given obtain sensors, data links and of course the Combat Management System supposedly to be supplanted by Thales prior to the revision of specs. Things like Tactical Data Link are essential where it secures communication and coordination especially among the users that are using it like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO

At present, Thales TACTICOS comes with variants which it is called "TACTICOS Solutions Family" which it can suit a vessel depending on its purpose. That is ranging from a typical Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Vessel to a fully-armed destroyer.

The TACTICOS Solutions Family Variants:

TRINITY - A specific, highly modular solution to provide small patrol craft and fast interceptor craft with C2 and action support. Based on a clever combination of low-cost building blocks that can be packaged into a lean yet mean combat system with sensors and machine gun(s).

Commander - Commander integrates sensor and open-source information to generate a sharable local, operational and strategic situation picture. It represents the next level in maritime safety mission systems. A proven system in harsh circumstances (e.g. Arctic) and ideal for both civilian and military users.

TACTICOS 100 - Designed to provide stable and reliable command and control capabilities for short-endurance Maritime Security Operations in littoral waters. Support is available for electro-optical fire control for a medium caliber gun (up to 40mm).

TACTICOS 150 - The first choice for ocean-going maritime security agencies. It provides capabilities for both littoral and high-seas operations against pirates, smugglers and terrorists. TACTICOS 150 supports long-endurance oceanic patrols and work with a variety of off-board assets including sea boats, boarding teams, helicopters and unmanned vehicles.

TACTICOS 300 - TACTICOS 300 provides defense and security capabilities for today’s multi-role navies. Aimed to equip any naval ship up to patrol ships with typically 4-6 operator positions. Its focus is to perform point defense tasks (guns) with support for Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

TACTICOS 400 - Over and above the capabilities of TACTICOS 300, the focus of TACTICOS 400 is to provide point defense with guns and missiles, plus surface to surface missile capability, supported by a full range of MSO capabilities. It is typically designed to equip surface combatants (corvettes &  frigates) with 6-12 operator positions.

TACTICOS 500 - The focus of TACTICOS 500 is to provide layered air defense with guns and missiles; support concurrent engagements (air, surface, and subsurface). It supports a task force staff and provides coordination for area defense with typically 12-20 operator positions.

TACTICOS 1000 - The TACTICOS 1000 is an addon that provides the ability to perform very wide area defense against ballistic missiles.

Incheon-class Frigate Philippines, Philippine Navy, Republic of Korea Navy, South Korea
Republic of Korea Navy FFX-1 Incheon-class Frigates.
With its number of users spread across the navies of the world, it is no doubt that at several points a number of suppliers during the bid are willing to supply such system which apparently, goes in favor to the people in the ranks.

Just so we know, and to understand it further, it was discussed in the Naval Shield Article that it was derived from Thales TACTICOS baseline 0 at that time that Samsung Thales is still in existence. By that sense, Thales helped improve indigenous Combat Management Systems long before the breakup of partnerships and eventually having Hanwha standing on its own while offering its systems as part of the Frigate program.

Also to that, two competing bidders were offering it where it includes Hyundai Heavy Industries prior to its changing of systems in favor of Hanwha Naval Shield. By that case, it was an enticing deal that these two leading bidders have where both are offering this sophisticated system which is considered "alien" in the case of Philippine Navy in which at present doesn't have such complex technology installed in any of its ships. 

In those deals that the Philippines almost have Thales TACTICOS as its Combat Management System, only to be retracted later on to the one which is made in Korea whereby any sense, still is an improvement than what the fleet obtains at present.

Add to that, the length of the development of TACTICOS ranging back to SEWACO of the 1990s is an advantage considering that integration and improvements at that period up to present may have it more enhanced than the Hanwha Naval Shield that was developed in 2000s in a Samsung Thales partnership. That definitely provides leverage for the former in which their systems were widely used.

With the experience and its record, it may be good to say that Thales TACTICOS is a better option than the Hanwha Naval Shield ICMS and it may be better if Hyundai sticks to the former rather than switching it to the latter. Nevertheless, both of such combat management system will improve the capabilities of the Navy fleet that is slowly modernizing from its mainstay of World War 2 era vessels.


The Thales TACTICOS is indeed recognized as the preferred Combat Management System chosen by a number of Navies of the World. This is the result of the years of research starting from the nineties which make it as it is today.

The Philippines almost got a hand of it throughout the bidding which this was replaced by a system produced indigenously by a company once partnered with Thales as chosen by the shipbuilder. By this case, the Hanwha Naval Shield ICMS will be seen more on the new combat frigates of the Navy than Thales TACTICOS where improvements are still there as a sign that the fleet is becoming modernize as part of the initiative of the Armed Forces to enhance its capabilities to have a minimum credible force. 

Nevertheless, this does not mean that Thales or its product may not see action in the Philippines again. Chances are, with more procurement projects that are on its way, it may find its way to a naval ship should a shipbuilder once again prefer to have the TACTICOS as the Combat Management System. Hence at present, it is ought to see and hope for the Armed Forces to do its mandate as well as to see the newer Frigates of the Navy whether it and its components are up to the expectations which it can do its mandate. 

The thing is, there is the desire that the military shall obtain the most capable assets they may procure at the best of capabilities of the decision planners and committees such as the Technical Working Group under the Bids and Awards Committee obtain with the sense that the money paid is indeed worth it. Lest to say, the hopes and dream is still there now that the Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program is on the roll with more assets coming on its way, serving the purpose of defending the nation and its sovereignty.

(c) 2018 PDA, first edited 03-20-2023.

1 comment:

Rainnel Maclang said...

Acknowledging that Thales CMS is the more mature and developed system with a large installed base, it would be nice to have it as our fleetwide CMS.
BUT the Philippine Navy is starting from a clean slate. There is no compatibility issue with existing "manual" based system in our current PN assets. We can use Hanhwa CMS and build up on it. It is, after all, developed in partnership with Thales. Anyway, it is not the necessarily the technical sophistication of the system, but the experience, discipline, and training of our Navy personnel that would win battles. The USS Fitzgerald has the latest technology but they almost got sunk buy an unarmed cargo ship because the sailors and the captain failed to use them.

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