NEWTOWN, Conn: Thales is Europe’s most important player in the targeting pod market with its Damocles multifunction pod for day/night laser-guided weapon capability. Though the Dassault Aviation Rafale is its primary platform, Damocles has been purchased for the Dassault Mirage 2000, Dassault Super √Čtendard Modernis√©, and Sukhoi Su-30MK aircraft.

Dassault is upgrading the capabilities of the Rafale fighter and one of the improvements is a more advanced Damocles targeting pod. Thales Damocles project manager Pascal Jourdan said the Damocles XF pod features an improved IR sensor, and the -XF variant adds a daylight charge-couple device camera with continuous zoom to boost surveillance capabilities.

Jourdan added that flights trials with key parts of the Damocles XF had already taken place, although an actual operational system was not expected to be flown until 2012. He anticipated that those flight trials would take place on a Mirage 2000 aircraft.

Thales is also updating Damocles communications capabilities. In joint operations with close air support, the new data transmission capability will facilitate data and video exchange with ground troops, improve the chain of command’s control, and increase the engagement’s precision. The new data system will be interoperable with systems used by other forces engaged in joint operations with France.

At the Paris Air Show 2009, Jourdan said that 25 pods have been ordered by the French military and 75 by international customers. Since then, France ordered 10 more, bringing Damocles sales to 110 pods. Forecast International’s projection for Damocles production primarily mirrors Rafale sales. Export sales of the Rafale fighter remain elusive, which is a major disappointment to Dassault, Thales, and other Rafale subcontractors and suppliers.