Under the terms of the deal - signed today - Thales will work with the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) to design, build, test and operate the technology that will deliver the National Identity Register and support the issuing of identity cards from the second half of 2009, an IPS spokesman said,
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The four-year contract is worth £18m. Another contractor, yet to be named, will manufacture the cards.
"This contract award follows a procurement exercise using the NIS Strategic Supplier Group framework arrangement awarded in May 2008," said the IPS spokesman.
Thales, formerly Thomson-CSF, bought British defence electronics manufacturer Racal in June 2000. Later that year, it signed a transatlantic co-operation deal with US defence electronics firm Raytheon.
Last month, Thales bought UK-based encryption company nCipher for £50.7m. Thales UK is now the UK's second-biggest defence contractor, with 10,000 employees at 60 locations. The French state and Alcatel Lucent own 27.2% and 20.9% of Thales, respectively.