Paris is to fund a cockpit modernisation programme for the French air force’s Airbus Defence & Space CN235 medium transport fleet, with the activity to enable the twin-turboprops to remain in operational use until 2040.
Under the programme’s initial €107 million ($116 million) development, qualification and certification phase, industry partners Sabena Technics and Thales AVS France will modify single examples of the CN235 in its -200 and -300 standards before the end of 2026. A fleet-wide modernisation will follow, with work due to conclude during 2031.
“The first upgraded CN235s will begin operations in 2027,” the industry partners say.
France’s DGA defence procurement agency says the activity will “bring the aircraft into compliance with new international air navigation standards to enable them to continue to integrate into civil air traffic by increasing the precision of navigation and replacing obsolete equipment”.
“As consortium leader, Sabena Technics will perform the mechanical and electrical modifications and integrate the avionics equipment,” the companies say.
Thales will provide an avionics suite derived from its TopDeck system used on the ATR 72-600 regional turboprop, along with its TopStar C GPS receiver and inertial navigation system, and a new radio altimeter.
“The renovation will also improve navigation performance for tactical missions,” the DGA notes.
The French air force operates 19 CN235-200s and eight -300s, according to the DGA, with the oldest example having been in use since 1992.
This story has been story updated with additional information provided by Sabena Technics and Thales.