Photonis 4G tubes in the ONYX program

Photonis strengthens its market position within the French Army by supplying 4G image intensifier tubes


Photonis has been selected by the DGA as supplier of 4G image intensifier tubes - the latest state-of-the-art technology in night vision - for the acquisition of night vision goggles.

On this occasion, Fantassins interviewed Frédéric Guilhem, Executive Commercial Officer of the Night Vision activities at Photonis.


Can you tell us more about these procurement programs for the French Army?

“As a French company, Photonis is extremely proud to provide its best technology to the French Army. As part of the ONYX contract awarded to Thales LAS by the DGA (General Management of Army), Photonis manufactures the 4G image intensifier tubes that will be deployed in approximately 10.000 bi-ocular goggles with a large field of view of 51°. As more and more military operations take place at night, it is essential to maintain a tactical advantage with a constant improvement of equipment and its ranges in DRI (Detection, Recognition and Identification) at night.

We worked hard, with the support of the DGA, to develop and improve our 4G tubes. The French Army carried out the first standard DRI tests in 2016 and then validated that 4G technology increased performances by 50% to 60% compared to the existing equipment. 4G is a major development for field operations!  In addition, as a result of the ONYX program, Photonis is very expectant of equipping approximately 10.000 binoculars as part of another DGA program being allocated.”


Why do you think Photonis has been designated under these 2 new programs?

“In 2016, when we started equipping Thales' Bonie high-performance binoculars with our 4G tubes, dedicated to Special Forces, we had very positive feedback from the users, the STAT and the EMCOS. Today, it is based on that positive feedback logical that the Army is acquiring the same products in volume because it is convinced of the quality offered by Photonis. This technology is specially designed to meet the strict requirements of night combat operations. It allows operators to get the best possible image in rapidly changing light conditions. Moreover, we see that France is one of the few countries with such advanced technology, which enables the country to maintain its sovereignty over this type of equipment.”


Can you explain what the Photonis 4G tubes bring?

“First of all, the 4G brings a much higher FOM (Figure Of Merit) than our competitors which,  doesn’t have any high limit for the French Forces because our products are made in France. On the other hand, the 4G tubes offer three other major advantages: an ultra-rapid Auto-Gating which is compatible with all weapons in service within the French Army, a reduced halo of light to have a less glaring image and an extended sensitivity from ultraviolet to the near infrared. Thanks to the high FOM and extended sensitivity, operators benefit from the best possible range in all types of environments like the desert, snow, forests, urban, etc. It is certainly a tactical advantage over the enemy even in the darkest nights.
We sometimes forget that night vision is limited to night level 5: in fact, probably 80 to 90% of army missions, I exclude here Special Operations, are carried out on clearer nights or in atmospheres polluted by artificial lights. Under these conditions, 4G tubes once again provide an advantage over the competition. In particular 4G provides a constant resolution at high light levels what gives a very clear image. Unlike other products of which its resolution drops at higher light levels and results in blurred images. We should also mention the almost total absence of the Fixed Pattern Noise in comparison to competitor’s products of which their image quality is much degraded in a light atmosphere, according to users' feedback.”


Are there any further ambitions or projects for 4G Photonis tubes?

“In France, considering the advances of the 4G technology, we think it is desirable to upgrade the entire existing fleet of night vision binoculars. Today, the Forces have 15.000 FELIN NVGs and giving them a new youth with 4G tubes would offer the same levels of performance as the ONYX NVG’s for example. It would make sense to have a homogeneous fleet of 35.000 NVG’s by 2025.

In addition, other European countries have followed France’s lead in equipping their armies: tenders or key programs are in progress and the 4G technology has become the standard in all European programs without exception. We are particularly proud to have won a large number of tenders for the Swiss army, a very demanding customer, but also for the German, Dutch, Danish, Austrian armies and other countries.

As these night vision systems tend to be widely used, the challenge is to have tubes that are always more efficient than those of the enemy and which allow us to see them as far away as possible at night. That’s why we are convinced that 4G tubes meet the future requirement for the French Army.
More specifically, we now offer a minimum FOM from 1900 to 2300 on 4G tubes and we are introducing 4G+ tubes that offer a significant improvement in range at night 5 with an even higher FOM. 
And finally, Photonis is already working on the sequel!”


Can you tell us more about it? 

“We’ll keep you informed in due course. . . You know, we need to have sometimes little secrets.”