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Innovation Essential in the Defense Sector: Naval Group

Nicolas Viala - Naval Group
General Manager Mexico


Sofía Hanna By Sofía Hanna | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Tue, 04/18/2023 - 12:51

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Q: How important is innovation for Naval Group and the naval defense sector?

A: Innovation is crucial for Naval Group. As a naval defense company, we design, build, integrate, maintain, dismantle and deconstruct surface ships and submarines. Innovation is at the core of our activities for two reasons. First, innovation provides a competitive advantage in the defense sector, which is essential for growth and performance. Second, we invest between 9% and 10% of our sales volume in innovation, which is about €4 billion (US$4.32 billion) per year. Innovation is essential to us and it plays a vital role in various aspects of naval activities beyond the design and construction of ships, such as maintenance and other related areas.

Q: Why did Naval Group decide to start operations in Mexico?

A: Naval Group has a long history as a French naval company, with over 400 years of experience. Formerly known as DCNS, in 2017, we changed our name to Naval Group. Our goal is to continue serving our French client, which make up around 50% of our sales, but we also want to expand globally. Naval Group opened an office in Mexico in 2022 as part of our strategy to have regional bases to deal with several markets and countries. 

Mexico has a strong technological and industrial base and we believe the country represents a good opportunity for us. Mexico’s fleet will need to optimize its capacity in the coming years, and we could be an ally in this effort. It is also strategic to have a base in Mexico to be closer to Central America, the Caribbean, Peru and Colombia, among other regions. Our specialized activity in naval defense requires us to be close to our clients, which renew their fleets every 25, 30 or 40 years. Being close to our clients will help us better understand their needs and provide better solutions.

Q: What are the essential technologies required for modern navies?

A: The current challenge for most navies is efficiency, doing more with fewer resources, including staff. Therefore, automation is critical. The main focus is the physical and functional integration of surface, aerial and underwater drones into naval fleets, which requires a secure data link for communication between the drones and the fleet.

Cybersecurity is another critical technology requirement, as information is also traveling and needs to be protected. The third essential technology for modern navies is propulsion integration, which involves integrating clean battery technology or hydrogen propulsion to make ships more environmentally friendly. Finally, for submarines, autonomy and endurance are essential criteria.

Q: What are the challenges and opportunities related to AI for naval defense?

A: Both submarines and ships face various challenges and opportunities with AI. The submarine, in particular, is a fascinating and complex product. As technology advances, the gaps between the best technological aspects are becoming increasingly shorter. Therefore, integrating AI into naval defense is crucial for anticipating future technological advancements and maintaining units for their expected lifespan of 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. This means that maintenance processes must consider obsolescence treatment and use AI to interpret and design for future changes. Although this presents challenges, it also presents opportunities for improving the efficiency and longevity of submarines and surface units. Therefore, AI is a critical component for the future of naval defense.

Q: How does Naval Group ensure interoperability within different fleets?

A: Interoperability is a challenge both locally and globally within naval fleets, especially with the increasing number of national and international operations. To ensure safe and efficient communication between different ships, international data links are opened depending on the operation. However, interoperability also poses a threat to cybersecurity, as open sources of data make it easier to gain unauthorized access. Thus, ensuring secure data transfer is crucial. While there are technical details on how to achieve interoperability, the volume of data and its security remain significant issues for Naval Group.

Q: What kind of partnerships and collaborations does Naval Group aim to have in Mexico?

A: Naval Group has no restrictions on partnerships and collaborations in Mexico. It is important to clarify that "naval" does not only refer to armed ships, as protecting citizens during natural disasters or providing aid is also part of naval activity. The word "armament" also includes protecting exclusive economic zones from piracy, drug trafficking and illegal fishing. The sea is a resource that needs protection and means for exploitation. Naval Group already has contacts and cooperation agreements in Mexico, with academic and technological pillars being the most important. New partners are always welcome to participate in this venture. Mexico's position as one of the five world leaders in the aeronautical field could also be beneficial for the naval industry. Naval Group is open to collaboration with any interested parties.


Naval Group designs, builds, modernizes and provides through-life support for navy ships, training crews and designing and operating naval infrastructure.

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