Thales Underwater Systems

Thales Underwater Systems

Thales Underwater Systems (TUS), formerly known as Thomson Marconi Sonar, is an international defence manufacturer specialising in sonar systems for submarines and surface warships, and airborne sonar systems as well as communications masts and systems for submarines. TUS has sites in the United Kingdom, France, and Australia, and is a subsidiary of Thales Naval, which in turn is part of the Thales Group.

Thales Underwater Systems has a complicated history, as it was formed from a number of smaller companies. It is now made up of three subsidiary companies; TUS Ltd in the UK, TUS SAS in France and TUS Pty in Australia. However, it operates as a single company with headquarters in southern France. TUS had annual sales of 400 million euros in 2006 and employs 2100 people in France, the UK and Australia.


This section looks at Thales Underwater Systems Ltd (the UK company). Thales Underwater Systems in the UK mainly comprises the Cheadle Heath (in Stockport), Church Crookham and the Templecombe (Somerset) sites. TUS UK has a turnover of around £85 million with a total of 853 staff in 2006.

Cheadle Heath

The Cheadle Heath site was set up in 1977 as an overspill of the Ferranti Military Systems Division based at Wythenshawe. It comprised groups covering Training Simulators, Communication Systems and a small Underwater Systems Group (30 people) which was engaged in the development of displays and computer interfaces for sonars 2016 and 2020. This was work which was not wanted by the main parts of Ferranti based at Western Road, Bracknell. The main parts of these sonars were developed by the Plessey Marine Research Unit at Templecombe, Somerset.

The sonar work at Cheadle increased and took on digital signal processing, algorithm development, display generation, simulation, displays (raster-scan TV displays and LCD), mass storage, computer interfaces and highways. Takeovers of other companies gave expertise in sonar arrays. The Sonar Systems Group increased in size and successfully bid against Plessey for parts of sonar 2054. Other parts of the Ferranti empire started to crumble, aided by the merger with International Signal (James Guerin) in 1987 to form Ferranti International. Ferranti eventually went bankrupt (again) in 1993, however the small, idiosyncratic Sonar Systems Group had become a successful standalone business. A Joint Venture Company was formed between the Ferranti liquidators (49.9%) and Thomson-CSF (50.1%) to form Ferranti Thomson Sonar Systems. The Ferranti share was bought out by GEC-Marconi to become Thomson Marconi Sonar Systems.

FTSS had outstations at Weymouth for aquaculture sonar and other special systems. This is now closed along with its Church Crookham site.


The Templecombe part of TUS started life in 1965 as the Marine Systems Research Unit of the Marine Systems Division of the Plessey Company, then it became Plessey Marine Research Unit, and Plessey Marine, before becoming Plessey Naval Systems, producing sonar and other related systems. The Marine Systems Division was established in 1961 at Uppark Drive Ilford but originated in a specialist underwater unit formed by the Plessey Company in 1948. The sites at Ilford carried out manufacturing and support of the older sonars, such as Type 195, and the Mark 44 torpedo. A manufacturing and support site at Newport, Wales was set up for later sonars and gradually the sites at Ilford closed. The headquarters of Plessey Marine was transferred to Templecombe.

Plessey took over a company called Ameeco Hydrospace in the 1970s which specialised in building towed arrays. This had sites in Andover and Gillingham. The sites at Andover were eventually closed and the work transferred to Newport.

Plessey Naval Systems was taken over in 1989 by GEC-Marconi, the defence arm of GEC, to eventually merge with Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd.

After the sonar systems businesses of Thomson-CSF and Ferranti were merged (creating Ferranti Thomson Sonar Systems), GEC-Marconi acquired Ferranti's share, and the company became Thomson Marconi Sonar (TMS). Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd became a part of this company.

In 1999, as part of the merger of Marconi Electronic Systems (as GEC-Marconi had become), and British Aerospace, the new BAE Systems held 49.9% of TMS, which it sold to Thales (the new name for Thomson-CSF) in 2001. Thomson Marconi Sonar was renamed Thales Underwater Systems and the original part of MUSL became part of BAE Systems. The UK headquarters of TUS is at Templecombe.

The original site at Templecombe was at Wilkinthroop House and later because of expansion a site at Throop Road was added. The Throop Road site was previously the railyard of the Somerset and Dorset Railway. Because of restrictions at the former site, all work was later transferred to the latter one and Wilkinthroop House sold off. A flooded quarry at Waterlip was acquired as a test site in the 1960s but problems led to testing being transferred to a site at Vobster. However, further problems there led to testing resuming at Waterlip. The Newport site was closed and manufacturing transferred back to Templecombe. In addition there have been sites in Bath for Prime Contract Management and a Joint Plessey Ferranti Office at Portland to support the Admiralty Research Establishment, but both are now closed. Plessey Naval Systems also had a site at Carslbad California for USN support.

Church Crookham

This is a small site with only 36 employees, producing specialised products. ( Now Closed )



This site specialises in minecountermeasures sonar.




This is the main manufacturing facility.


This is the headquarters of TUS in Australia.


*Dipping sonar (such as that for the Merlin Helicopter)
*Minehunting Sonars (such as Type 2093, Type 2193 and TSM 2022 Mk2)
*Mine and obstacle avoidance sonar for surface ships (TSM 5424 Petrel sonar)
*Sonars for conventional submarines (S Cube SSK)
*Surface ship towed array sonar (Sonar 2087, CAPTAS)
*Medium frequency ASW sonar (Spherion)
*Torpedo sonars
*Torpedo detection sonar (Sea Defender)
*Submarine sonar (Type 2076)
*Underwater communications sonars
*Swimmer detection sonar
*Synthetic aperture sonar
*Unmanned underwater vehicle sonar
*Autonomous/towed training sources
*Non-acoustic products - such as submarine communication masts


*Brest, France
*Sophia-Antipolis, France
*Templecombe, Somerset, UK
*Cheadle Heath, Cheshire, UK
*Meadowbank, New South Wales, Australia
*Rydalmere, New South Wales, Australia.

ee also

Thales Group

External links


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