LE BOURGET, France — Sofradir will supply key components for infrared detectors on the Talios targeting pod, one of the upgrades for the Rafale F3-R fighter jet due for delivery next year, said Philippe Bensussan, chairman of the French specialist in military and civil infrared detectors, or IR.
"Sofradir is bringing technology that will help Thales increase the range while keeping a similar size for the IR detector and lower power consumption," he told Defense News on June 22 at the Paris Air Show.
Thales supplies Talios, a long-range, electro-optical pod seeking to span intelligence gathering to weapon delivery. Talios replaces the Damocles pod.
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Bensussan noted that Sofradir supplies IR detectors for Storm Shadow and Mica missiles, as well as the Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, the air-to-ground modular weapon also know as AASM.
Britain and France have agreed to a midlife upgrade on those weapons, as well as the French Exocet, which does not have an IR capability.
The company continues to pursue the tough U.S. market and is now a supplier to the U.S. Air Force after previously delivering components to the U.S. Army, he said.
Designing and making IR semiconductors calls for some 10 years, a lengthy period that makes it hard to find commercial funding, he said. "Investment is needed to deliver a critical technology needed for innovation," he said.
Sofradir has doubled its own funding for research and development over five years, while government support has been stable, he said.
The company has drawn on the government's tax breaks for research, and it repays a small portion of the state support.
Sofradir designs and builds chips for short-, medium- and long-wave IR sensors, which are fitted to military kits such as night vision goggles, IR cameras and targeting systems. The Ulis unit specializes in civil applications, including a system to detect leakage of methane gas.
The company had 2016 sales of some €220 million (U.S. $245 million) and a stable profit. Sofradir is a joint venture of Safran and Thales.