Thomson-CSF, a French company that is the world's fourth-largest manufacturer of defense electronics, has relocated its U.S. headquarters to Crystal City from New York as part of an aggressive bid to seek more Defense Department contracts.

"It is a logical step in our efforts to provide quality service and fast responses to the company's most important customer, the Department of Defense," said Jean-Francois Briand, managing director of Thomson-CSF's Systems and Weapons Systems Group. "We are now only a few minutes away from the Pentagon, the Congress and our U.S. industry partners' Washington offices. This is where we need to be," Briand said.

For Thomson-CSF, the American military has become an increasingly important customer. In 1985, the company teamed up with GTE Corp. to win a $4.3 billion Army contract for a tactical telecommunications system, the largest military contract awarded for a system based on foreign technology.

More recently, Thomson-CSF has joined with Honeywell to compete in the Army's 120mm mortar program. A decision on the $200 million project is expected sometime early next year.

The company also has teamed up with LTV Corp.'s Missiles and Electronics Group to compete for a $2 billion portion of the Army's Forward Area Air Defense System, which is designed to replace the canceled Divad air defense gun, also called the Sgt. York. A final decision is expected Nov. 26.

"If the Thomson-LTV system is selected, 80 percent of it will be built in the United States," Briand said. "That means we will have to build a major new manufacturing and assembling facility in the U.S." Thomson-CFS has offices or assembly facilities in Huntsville, Ala., Tulsa, Okla., and Palo Alto, Calif.

Thomson-CSF is a part of Thomson Group, one of the world's largest electronic companies. Thomson Group has annual revenue of more than $10 billion and does business in more than 100 countries. In August, Thomson Group agreed to purchase 80 percent of General Electric's consumer electronics business, including the GE and RCA brands. The purchase makes Thomson the leading producer in the United States of television receivers and videocassette recorders. Thomson-CFS is the electronics and defense company arm of the group and accounted for 40 percent of Thomson Group's revenue last year.