German Consortium Wins Contract for Next Phase of Franco-German Maritime Patrol Aircraft Project – MAWS

A German consortium wins a contract for the next phase of a Franco-German project to develop a next-generation maritime patrol aircraft system with AI and cloud technology.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

On April 25, 2024, the German MAWS GbR, which consists of ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH, HENSOLDT Sensors GmbH, and Diehl Defence GmbH & Co. KG, was granted the contract for the second national supplementary study for the Franco-German Maritime Airborne Warfare System (MAWS).    

MAWS aims to establish a networked system of systems for maritime reconnaissance, submarine hunting, and maritime target engagement using manned and unmanned platforms coordinated with ground stations. Key elements of this project include advanced data links for networking and a cloud-based AI solution for sensor data analysis, ESG, Hensoldt, and Diehl Defence explained in a joint statement released on May 6.

They added that the study aims to propose concrete solutions for the German naval aviators and an interim solution relying on Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon. There is also talk about developing a “Maritime Warfare Cloud”  to “ensure data sovereignty.”

A key component of this is acquiring information sovereignty from partial information through the use of specifically designed software for data collecting and analysis with artificial intelligence. As the cloud sensor data is processed and made available across the full system network, it will become an important component of the MAWS. Once it can recognize massive amounts of data, it will be much more than just a data storage device, states the release.  

Thanks to this forward-looking technology, the MAWS cooperation project will enable the German Navy to meet the expected challenges in terms of security policy, wrote the “MAWS GbR” consortium.

Role of France

In 2018, France and Germany signed a letter of intent to study “the conditions for the development of a European solution enabling the deployment of an autonomous and efficient maritime patrol capacity in Europe” under the MAWS project.

The objective was to develop, by 2030, a “system of systems” with a next-generation maritime patrol aircraft linked to a sensor network that included semaphores, satellites, drones, etc. This also involved work on radars, acoustic buoys, electronic warfare, and anti-surface and anti-submarine armaments.

For the French Navy, this project was meant to replace its eighteen Atlantic 2 maritime patrol aircraft upgraded to standard 6. The same applied to the MarineFlieger – naval aviation of the German Navy, whose P-3C Orions were supposed to remain operational until 2030.

Two years later, a feasibility and “system architecture” study was entrusted to a consortium formed by the French group Thales and three German companies: Hensoldt, ESG (ESG Elektroniksystem—und Logistik-GmbH), and Diehl. For this purpose, a “technical platform” was established in Vélizy, France.

However, Berlin decided to retire the P-3C Orions from the MarineFlieger earlier than planned, citing high costs for their modernization and maintenance. Subsequently, they were sold to Portugal.

Germany opted for Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon to replace them, saying it was an “interim solution.” But, after ordering five of these aircraft, it announced the acquisition of three additional ones in November 2023.

On that occasion, it reiterated that the P-8A Poseidon from American manufacturer Boeing will replace the P-3C Orion for submarine hunting and maritime reconnaissance as an interim solution from late 2024. It also emphasized that, ultimately, such capabilities will be developed through the Franco-German MAWS cooperation project.

However, on the French side, there is skepticism regarding the P-8A Poseidon as a temporary solution. Consequently, the Vélizy platform was dismantled, and the French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) awarded studies to Dassault Aviation and Airbus to prepare for the succession of the Atlantic 2, with the choice between the Falcon 10X and the A320neo.

These studies, lasting eighteen months, will focus on “improving sensors” and “communication means,” as well as on artificial intelligence solutions and weapon integration,” the DGA explained in January 2023. They “will contribute to reflections on the future maritime patrol aircraft, whose launch is planned in 2026 with a view to a new capability in the 2030-2040 decade,” it added.

The French Military Programming Law 2024-30 lists a host of joint projects with Germany and says nothing about it. However, three German companies, united in a consortium, have just been awarded a contract for the “second phase of complementary national study” of the “Franco-German” MAWS project.

This consortium, MAWS GbR, comprises the same companies tasked with conducting the feasibility studies in 2020, except Thales, which is not among them.


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