June 23, 2012: A Russian firm has obtained another license from French firm Thales Optronics to manufacture thermal imagers. The Russians have been manufacturing the older Catherine FC thermal imager for several years now. This 5.5 kg (11 pound) device can detect armored vehicles ten kilometers away in any weather. The new license allows manufacture of the new Catherine XP imager. This 3 kg (6.5 pound) device has longer range and greater sensitivity than the FC model.
Five years ago Russia ended a 70 year old tradition of not buying foreign (or at least Western) weapons. At that time Russia purchased a hundred of the Catherine FC thermal imaging systems for Russian T-90 tanks. This was just the beginning, as Russia also began manufacturing the thermal imagers under license.
Although the communists sought to become self-sufficient in weapons, after they took over in 1917, it was another two decades before that became a fact. Up until the 1930s, the Soviet Union would buy or license military technology from the West. But after that, they stole what they could, and insisted that all their weapons were nothing but Russian technology. This was never the case, and when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia began selling, and buying, technology. Some foreign tech began showing up in Russian weapons systems. The Russians are admitting that they, like most industrialized countries, are willing to buy military technology they need, from whoever can offer the best terms. The Russians are also eager to buy manufacturing licenses as well and increase the manufacturing capabilities of Russian firms.