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06 July 2015

Warplanes and airliners share the skies

As commercial air traffic expands and the skies become busier, military aviation is having to adapt. Laurent Lenoir, Director of the Avionics Systems competence centre, tells us how Thales is helping to meet these challenges.

What is the basic issue here?

Military aircraft and commercial airliners are designed for different purposes. An airliner is built to carry passengers from point A to point B, taking off and landing at specific times and ensuring the highest levels of safety.
Military aircraft perform a wide array of specific missions, often in hostile environments. On all those missions, ensuring the integrity and security of mission data is a key objective.
With fewer routes reserved exclusively for military air traffic, military aircraft increasingly need to meet civil standards in order to fly in commercial airspace.

What needs to be done?

Cockpit solutions for commercial airliners and military aircraft are obviously very different, partly due to the physical space available, but there’s a lot of overlap between the underlying technologies. Thales designs modular systems with an open architecture that can achieve civil certification as well as meeting the specific requirements of tactical missions.
The A400M is a good example. This plane is designed with an Integrated Modular Avionics suite that meets civil standards, and we added a host of specific military features and functions, such as data encryption, to ensure a high level of security. We do the same for helicopters.

How do you ensure data integrity?

We incorporate high-grade security into our civil solutions, combining our expertise in the defence and security sectors and drawing on some of the technologies used to protect critical infrastructure in major cities, for example.

How can UAVs fly in civil airspace?

With no pilot on board, it's even more important for the links between the aircraft and the ground to be extremely secure. On military missions, a special device erases all data if operators lose control of the aircraft. And if a mechanical failure occurs, there needs to be a way to avoid crashing into populated areas. Thales is playing an active role in the working groups in Europe and the United States that are now developing regulations for UAVs to fly safely in civil airspace.

Laurent Lenoir