Revamping the Polygone 06/06/2024 | Marco Giulio Barone

This year, Thales brought to ILA 2024 its mobile threat simulators from the company’s Koblenz site, as part of the Multinational Aircrew Electronic Warfare Tactics Facility Polygone (MAEWTF Polygone), the largest training facility for electronic warfare in Europe.

Polygone is a tri-national initiative between Germany, France and the US. It aims to train aircraft crews and prepare them for the threat posed by Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) systems. Mobile threat simulators differ from real air defence missile systems in that they can only simulate missile fire.

The training area covers around 20,000km2 with a north-south extension of around 240km and around 140km from west to east. The area extends across the border in Germany over parts of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland and in France over parts of Alsace-Lorraine and the Vosges mountains. As many as 30-40 aircraft can operate on the Polygone at the same time, while the ground segment includes SA-8 air defence missile systems (which combine search radar, fire control radar and missiles in one vehicle), SA-6 missile launchers, and Roland air defence systems. Exercises are overseen thanks to a Thales GM-400 S-band AESA 3D radar. All this requires a joint effort by participating air forces as well as from Thales and MBDA, which jointly deploy a team of 60-65 people. 

The main purpose of exercises is training pilots to operate in realistic conditions and react to GBAD systems. 

The interior of vehicles is fully digitalised and is constantly being adapted by electronic warfare specialists to simulate modern systems. High-tech systems from Thales record all weapon system data. They make it possible to combine this with the data registered by the aircraft to create a comprehensive data set, later used for pilot debriefing. Countermeasures taken by the aircraft crews are also studied, analysed, and exploited. This helps to identify errors and improve tactical behaviours. The use of simulators is the only real training tool for pilots to efficiently utilise airborne self-protection equipment/suites and to expand their flying skills under real combat conditions.

Albeit multi-year contracts have been signed to guarantee the functionning of Polygone up until 2035-2040, a further effort might be required to partner nations. Indeed, to better simulate future scenarios, some of the Polygone's capabilities needs to be expanded. For instance, while software is being regenerated, new, more modern radars and effectors would add realism. Activities might also be expanded to include SEAD/DEAD exercises. In this case, Polygone would need larger areas and also the possibility to better address stealth technologies and stand-off weapons. 

Share on: