Frigates of the digital age
Adapting to a new world
Designed as a multi-mission frigate, the 4000t-displacement Belh@rra® frigate positions itself between the 2500t corvette-class Gowind® and the 6000t FREMM. This state-of-the-art frigate is a versatile addition to Naval Group’ catalogue and completes the Group’s range of frigates with what is a truly innovation-ridden vessel.
The Belh@rra® was designed by Naval Group for the French Navy’s needs, but was above all designed to be the most customisable–and therefore the most easily exportable–of frigates. With every navy around the world having their own particular requirements in terms of equipment, software, crew size, weaponry and so on, Naval Group saw the opportunity to design a versatile frigate that can be easily upgraded and that answers the particular needs of navies from across the world.
The Belh@rra® is a product-line frigate, implying that it can be, to a certain extent, custom-built. This unique feature means that its ‘customisation’ for export is not only swift but also affordable.
The Belh@arra® frigate, successor to the La Fayette-class, gets its name from Europe’s only giant wave, ‘la Belharra’, off the southern west coast of France. Between 8 and 15 metres tall, the wave is the ocean’s true show of force.
Innovation on every front
The Belh@rra® frigate provides a number of innovative design variabilities inspired by lessons learned from other frigates such as the 6000t-displacement FREMM. The Belh@rra®’s ship length is one such design variability that allows, as an example, for additional on-board space, thereby giving foreign navies added flexibility when it comes to on-board crew and/or equipment.
Thanks to its flexible design, the Belh@rra® can be proposed in different versions with adapted combat payload and platform arrangement. The on-board modularity of the Belh@rra® gives potential clients the opportunity to acquire a vessel that truly fits their current needs; all whilst keeping the door open to future upgrades.
In addition to maximised capacities for active/passive self-defence and attack in all warfare areas, the Belh@rra® addresses asymmetric warfare through a dedicated short-range protection centre providing full 360° coverage and action against close targets, whilst the SETIS® combat system features shipborne and third-parties UAV operating directly from the Combat Information Centre (CIC).
Riding the digital wave
In a day and age when almost everything is moving towards digital, Naval Group has embraced this new era and has made the digital shift an integral part of the design process. In what is the first truly digital frigate, the Belh@rra® comprises the most advanced integrated digital architecture capable of powering a wide range of parallel functions, including the all-important on-board combat system. The Belh@rra®’s on-board processing power gives the vessel an added edge insomuch as it may carry out a number of different functions in parallel; functions such as optimising equipment-maintenance processes or even detecting cyber-attacks.
Once again, the modularity of the digital architecture itself contributes to the vessel’s easy ‘upgradeability’ thereby ensuring its long-term operation capacity. A vessel’s ability to evolve with today’s ever-evolving technology makes it a lasting powerful asset for any navy around the world!
Digital, the new front line
Though digital is often synonymous with optimisation and efficiency, it also represents a new dimension of vulnerability in the form of cyber-attacks. Naval Group fully recognises this new battlefield and proactively leads the way in cyber-security. As such, the Belh@rra® frigate was designed keeping in mind the importance of cyber-security and delivers a new digital architecture capable of managing and controlling the threat.
Staying one boat length ahead
The Belh@rra® boasts wide-ranging operational capabilities and fits the bill for the full extent of the French navy’s range of missions. Naval Group also addresses the needs of the navies from around the world. Beyond the vessel itself and its strong customisability both before and after acquisition, Naval Group’ offer also includes transfer of technology (ToT), logistical advice and various training services aimed at assisting and enhancing the capabilities of navies around the world.
Drones: the new & improved allies
Extending one’s reach
New developments in drone technology means their reliability, their autonomy and their overall versatility has significantly increased over the past few years.
Today, Naval Group views naval drones as an extension to their range of naval vessels insomuch as they provide an added degree of versatility to the array of operations their sea-going vessel can offer. Where traditional surveillance means previously relied on satellite and/or long-range unmanned aircrafts to return information and data, drones are more reliable, more efficient, more responsive, more discrete and less expensive to mobilise and do not rely on optimal meteorological conditions to get the job done!
With three types of drones particularly applicable in the field of naval operations – aerial drones, surface drones and submarine drones – they represent the perfect solution for enhancing efficient remote surveillance and interaction capabilities whilst limiting both exposure and cost.
With such numerous and clear-cut advantages at stake, Naval Group has positioned itself at the forefront of naval drone technology and has gone one step further in developing a fully integrated mission system designed to coordinate aerial, surface and submarine drone missions all from one interface, the I4® Drones.
Coordinating remote operations
Naval Group has recently demonstrated the interoperability of its fully integrated I4® Drones mission system by orchestrating a large-scale simulation off the coast of Toulon in the south of France. The simulation successfully showcased the coordination of three independent types of drones, one aerial drone, one surface drone and one submarine drone, in what was a smooth and seamless operation.
The comprehensive I4® Drones mission system allows for the planning, the management and the real-time operation of the drones and their respective payloads, but also allows for their successful reinstatement.
Such successful simulations not only demonstrate Naval Group’ industrial engineering and innovation capabilities in the field of military drones, but also position Naval Group as the leading ‘systems provider’ for drone mission systems amongst foreign navies.
Teaming up across the board
I4® Drones is a naval drones mission system entirely designed and developed by Naval Group that enables an A-Z approach to drone mission management. It comprehensively covers three key stages of any mission that are ‘preparation’, ‘implementation and data processing’, and ‘return and reinstatement’, all whilst allowing for the supervision of naval drones throughout the operation and in every environment, aerial, surface and submarine. What’s more, the versatile mission system may be deployed on-board a submarine, a ship or from a maritime control center, giving navies the possibility to conduct any operation from any platform!
Ultimately, the I4® Drones mission system facilitates and enhances the efficacy and interoperability between vessels and drones in the context of inter-armed or inter-allied coalitions, thereby giving the said coalitions an undeniable edge to achieve its specific objectives.
Naval Group’ latest outfield players
Naval Group, along with its partners and subsidiaries, have developed a team of complementary aerial, surface and submarine drones capable of operating in unison in a mission environment.
The D19 is Naval Group’ first ever autonomous military submarine drone designed to enhance the operational reach and versatility of both surface vessels and submarines. Drawing on its extensive know-how in the field of torpedoes and mobile underwater targets, Naval Group designed the D19, an autonomous submarine drone capable of carrying out an array of naval missions. At a time when the vast majority of the underwater surveillance operations take place in low-depths coastline waters, submarine drones like the D19 offer a safer and more agile alternative for acquiring data in such previously inaccessible locations.
The REMORINA is a surface drone with advanced decision-making autonomy, as well as advanced obstacle-dodging capabilities, enabling it to approach and engage potentially threatening objects or vessels. Its numerous on-board sensors provide the command centre with real-time data giving it an enhanced tactical viewpoint allowing it to respond to the situation with necessary measure.
The UAV IT 180 (from our partner ECA Group, a French company specialized in robotics and unmanned naval solutions) is a versatile mini helicopter drone capable of flying in below-optimal weather conditions with a flexible battery system giving it a two hour autonomy thereby allowing it to carry out missions in a 30 nautical mile radius whilst carrying payloads of up to 5 kg. Its uses are widespread as it may be used to survey and secure the ship’s immediate surroundings, to detect floating mines or even to serve as a trans horizon radio relay for other aerial or naval drones operating within a coalition.
Making cybersecurity our core strength
On course with evolution
With digital innovations coming in thick and fast, there is a real need to integrate the ever-evolving digital landscape within the industry to better protect our environment from potential vulnerabilities.
Naval Group fully acknowledges the threats associated with fast evolving technologies and has made a point of taking cybersecurity extremely seriously right from the outset. In the aim of managing such threats, Naval Group has long put cybersecurity at the heart of their design and development processes and tends towards quicker, more reactive and more efficient design, development and construction processes by integrating digital and cybersecurity features into the vessels architecture from day one. Naval Group thus ensures ‘across the board’ cybersecurity from its vessels through to its mainland computer facilities.
Structuring ones defence
Despite deeply integrated cybersecurity features, it remains impossible for any one entity to claim immunisation against sophisticated, ever-evolving cyber-attacks, which is why Naval Group continuously assesses, tests and upgrades its own cybersecurity measures. The continued emergence of new and improved threats means that Naval Group must always be prepared to detect and counter security breaches as they occur.
That is why Naval Group has set up Security Operational Centres (SOCs) that supervise the entirety of Naval Group’s security infrastructures. In essence, they are responsible for detecting any threat thanks to a variety of protection measures. The advantage of these SOCs lies in their ability to identify any security shortcomings, assess potential impacts and subsequently work with Naval Group’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), an expert unit established to respond to security incidents.
Last but not least, and in line with its proactive stance on cybersecurity, Naval Group has gone as far as creating a parallel environment in which new digital evolutions and their associated threats may be tested on relevant systems and vessels. This Naval Cybersecurity Laboratory allows Naval Group to ensure that its defence and protection mechanisms can withstand the latest state-of-the-art attacks. Where defence mechanisms are tested on relatively longer time cycles, protection measures are tested on much shorter time cycles to ensure that no security breaches go unnoticed for extended periods of time.
On-board with cybersecurity
From an operational standpoint, Naval Group’s advanced cyber protection measures are rolled up in its Cyber Management System (CyMS), which is an on-board system capable not only of effectively detecting cyber intrusions, but also of assessing their operational impact, in order to present the commanding officer with appropriate recommendations for action. This on-board system is largely beneficial in that it presents the crew with an added degree of autonomy and reactivity in the face of impending threats.
To support vessels, Naval Group has also established dedicated operational entities called COSINs (Centre Opérationnel de Soutien Intégré Numérique – Integrated Digital Support Operation Centres) that act as cybersecurity front-line posts in the ports, and whose mission it is to ensure the overall integrity of the vessels’ digital systems. Again, any shortcomings are communicated back to the Computer Emergency Response Teams, allowing them to allocate the necessary resources to mitigate and resolve outstanding issues if requested, from on-board the vessel all the way back to the mainland computer facilities.
Becoming ‘natively’ digital
Naval Group has established strong internal governance through its Cyber Security Framework with the aim of making cyber security an integral part of its DNA. Such foresight has allowed Naval Group to develop a truly holistic approach whereby the cyber security features of its vessels not only contribute to its safety but also prevent the need for retrofitting, all whilst facilitating potential future upgrade operations.
Developing cyber security hand-in-hand with today’s evolving digitisation, as opposed to post-digitisation, is how Naval Group ensures state-of-the-art cybersecurity – forever optimising cyber-protection & cyber-detection to ensure a vessel’s cyber-resilience!
Maintaining the digital lead
Staying ahead of expectations
As an expert in life-cycle management, Naval Group upholds its commitment to maintaining its in-service vessels. Until now, a ship’s operational lifespan was interspersed with various pre-scheduled service stops consisting of upgrading and maintaining the vessel’s operational condition. All these maintenance operations are linked to dry-docking periods.
However, expectations are fast evolving; with the global shift towards digitalisation comes an opportunity for ship manufacturers to ride the digital wave, and to take full advantage of the wide ranging benefits associated with these new technologies. Naval Group is leading the way in the development and integration of on-board digital systems as early on as in the design phase. Naturally, such developments pave the way for a more digitalised approach to subsequent vessel operations, one of those being the in-service support (ISS) of sea-going vessels.
The reality of the digital perks
There are clear ways in which adopting a more digitalised approach to ISS can not only optimise resources, but can all-out reduce the number of service stops a vessel is forced to make throughout its lifetime, which in itself represents a considerable advantage.
The primary benefits associated with the digitalisation of ISS are two-fold.
Firstly, heavily digitalised vessels give ship manufacturers and operators added user flexibility. In concrete terms, digital features such as i-maintenance provide the vessel-operator with a continuous feed of accurate real-time data representative of the vessel’s condition, both of its physical and electronic components. As such, the vessel-operator may adapt the vessel’s scheduled service stops depending on its real-time condition. Essentially, this means that the vessel’s ISS becomes conditional rather than preventive, thereby giving the vessel operator that valuable added flexibility.
Secondly, the vessel’s integrated digital capabilities allow the ship operators to progressively update the vessel’s on-board software, thereby updating and modernising on-board equipment without having to immobilise the vessel at all!
The i-maintenance system is scheduled to be deployed on all new generation vessels. Such is the case for the Belh@rra®, Naval Group’s latest frigate.
Degrees of digitalisation
Sometimes however, service stops are inevitable. In such instances, the maintenance programme itself is digitalised, using the back-up of centralised land-based command centres (called COSIN) that capitalize all the data collected onboard. The COSIN enables a better workforce organisation and daily task assignment for each worker thanks to the use of pads. The dashboard-style output provides all interested parties with a succinct summary of the works allowing them to optimise the process and therefore immobilise the vessel for shorter periods of time.
It its relentless effort to optimise processes and save resources whilst remaining at the forefront of digital innovations in the defence sector, Naval Group continuously explores ways of taking advantage of new technologies to benefit its clients.
Digitally empowered renewable energies
Today, offshore floating wind turbines are a viable long-term source of renewable energy and are a particular focus for Naval Energies. However, they present engineers with an especially tricky design process for two reasons.
The first is the fundamental differences in the design approach between the two primary structures involved, the ‘sea-going’ floater and the traditionally ‘bottom-fixed’ wind turbine. Where wind turbine design modelling relies on a highly non-linear ‘temporal’ design analysis to simulate the real-time behaviour of the structure submitted to wind, offshore structure design is generally achieved using a linearized design model that relies more on frequency analysis to calculate the motions due to the relevant external forces coming from waves at hand. These two very different schools for design render the simulation of the structure’s global behaviour very tricky.
The second reason is also related to the composite behaviour of the structure as it deals with the multiple actions of the various structural and digital components of the turbine, and how they impact one another in time. As such, the design process must cater for a number of ‘coupling’ effects involving aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, computational reactions of the wind turbine controller and structural behaviours related to the various physical components.
A wind of change
Back when Naval Group’s design experience revolved primarily around the design of naval vessels, there was an obvious need to develop tailored design tools specifically adapted to the design constraints and criteria of floating offshore wind turbines.
In 2010, Naval Group and its subsidiary Sirehna used FAST, a pre-existing wind turbine design software, to develop their own FASTHYDRO, a similar software with hydrodynamic and mooring components enabling the simulation of the overall turbine structure. In 2011, Naval Group and Sirehna managed to further validate this software, based on innovative aero-hydrodynamics tests performed with IFREMER in a wave tank with a wind tunnel. This enabled to validate the coupled simulation of the wind turbine’s aerodynamics with the floater’s hydrodynamics.
In 2014 Naval Group turned its attention to project Seareed, which is the company’s current research & development effort in all matters relating to the integrated design of floating wind turbines. The Genesea software platform was thus developed: this new-and-improved integrated simulation & design software performs 4 major tasks that are 1) the creation of a fully parametric model, 2) calculations of the structure’s general behaviour using FASTHYDRO, 3) calculations of the stress to be borne by the structure, 4) the automated post-treatment of all the data, thereby enabling the simple application of the design criteria to verify the mechanical integrity of the global structure with regard to strength, stability and fatigue.
Beyond being 100% automated, Genesea presents a number of additional advantages. The software reduces risk by eliminating any potential for human error, represents considerable resource savings and can process thousands of loading scenarios, or ‘load cases’, simulating a vast array of weather patterns that include wind strength & orientation, currents, waves, swell and so on. “Where we would previously take three months, using old tools, to design an offshore floating wind turbine structure, today it takes us just a few days, or a week tops!”
Genesea was first used in the summer of 2015 and is under on-going development. One of its latest developments is the new concrete design feature that enables the modelling of hybrid floats made of concrete and steel, as opposed to just steel. The software now also includes an added visualisation feature that is extremely helpful in illustrating the moving float and its mooring.
The digital edge
In a word, the use of digital tools in the design of offshore floating wind turbines allows Naval Energies to:
- Calculate the structure’s global behaviour according to site-specific meteorological conditions,
- Calculate the internal loading to verify the design’s structural integrity,
- Calculate the wind turbines power production as a result of all these parameters.
Beyond determining whether or not a floating offshore wind turbine structure will resist the elements, this integrated digital design tool presents a rapid and effective method of automating calculations to optimising the design, thereby giving Naval Energies a significant competitive edge on the market.
So thorough is the Genesea tool that the world leader in Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) services, Bureau Veritas, has certified the design principles and design methodologies upon which the design software is based.
Naval Group leads the way in all matters relating to digital innovations applicable to the naval defence and naval energy sectors, providing its clients with competitive state-of-the-art solutions across the board. It’s what we do!