Russia will launch in July the licensed production of thermal imagers developed by a French firm as part of efforts to gain access to advanced foreign technologies, a Russian daily said on Friday.
A plant in the city of Vologda in central Russia will assemble the Thales-developed Catherine FC thermal imaging cameras for T-90 tanks in service with the Russian army.
"It is not a simple knock down assembly. We use Russian-made components to assemble the control system. After 2012 we will start using Russian optics and mechanics on these devices," the Gazeta newspaper quoted the plant's general director Alexander Korshunov as saying.
Localized production will allow Russia to reduce production and maintenance costs by at least 5-10% and manufacture thermal imagers for civilian purposes in the future.
Thermal imagers could be used for monitoring the efficiency of thermal insulation and detection of heat leaks, among other applications.
Russia might only be able to export thermal imagers produced at its plant with the permission of the French authorities. The list of potential customers will exclude so-called rogue states such as Iran.
According to experts, Russia is lagging 20-30 years behind the West in many areas of technological progress and is attempting to close the gap by purchasing production licenses abroad.
Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer contends that the development of Russia's defense industry in the next few years will be based solely on licensed production of foreign military equipment.
"We are so far behind the West that it is cheaper to buy technology [abroad] than to invent our own," Felgenhauer said.
Russia is holding talks on the licensed production of the Italian Beretta handguns, Israeli spy drones and French Mistral helicopter carriers.
Felgenhauer said the turn to licensed production was a logical and necessary move, as Russia had always developed its industry by borrowing technologies from the West.
"The Soviet Union bought tool-making equipment and whole assembly lines in the United States in the 1930s, Peter the Great brought technologies from Holland. Even the Kremlin, as we know, was built by Italians," the expert said.
MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti)
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