Thales has outlined a three-pronged strategy for expanding transatlantic trade and co-operation with US industry with the goal of doubling the French company's business in North America within three years. The cornerstone of the plan is a joint venture with Raytheon, which it hopes to have approved and launched by March.

Thales' vice chairman, Bernard Retat says the company has always "stressed the necessity for avoiding making fortresses in Europe and the USA. Chief executive Denis Ranque has defined a strategy in which Thales would invest in US civilian activities in order to learn how to do business in this country and behave like a good citizen, abiding by all the rules, even if it involved sensitive technology."

Thales' US derived business accounts for 12-15% of turnover, or $1 billion per annum, of which 85% is in the commercial field. "I would like to double that in a very short time," says Retat, with the intent of expanding the US defence sector to "eventually reflect" the company's overall 50/50 split in military and civil activities.

The renamed Thomson-CSF company's initial step has been to increase the number of tie-ups with US industry at programme level. Thales now boasts 30 collaborative projects, including teaming with Lockheed Martin to compete for the UK's future aircraft carrier programme, joining with Northrop Grumman to support the E-2C in French navy service and partnering Raytheon to jointly develop a low frequency dipping sonar for the US Navy's Sikorsky SH-60R Seahawk.

Raytheon and Thales are awaiting US and French state approval for their joint venture (JV) in air command and control systems. Retat anticipates formerly starting the 50/50 partnership in March, with an initial workforce of 1,300 and projected first year sales of $550 million. Thales Raytheon Systems will be registered in Ireland and chaired by a Frenchman who will rotate with a US chief executive after the first three years.

"The first goal of the JV is to succeed and demonstrate to shareholders, customers and the governments that it is successful. When that's done we might think of other things we can do to promote trans Atlantic co-operation," says Retat. The partnership excludes co-operation in airborne radars and air traffic control systems, but does not preclude tie-ups with other potential partners.

Thales is currently finalising an agreement with L3 to market its former Honeywell traffic collision avoidance system.

Source: Flight International