Innovative and worldclass products have been developed by Thales Air Defence Ltd (TADL) in Belfast, through a longstanding commitment to leading-edge product research and a strong global focus, Ian Pearson, MP, Minister responsible for Enterprise, Trade and Investment at the Northern Ireland Office, said today.

The Minister was speaking during a visit to the TADL plant at Castlereagh in Belfast, where the company develops a range of missile systems including the unique Starstreak air defence system, the most advanced weapon of its type. Their products have been sold to 58 Armed Forces in 32 countries.

The Minister said: “The most recent example of this company’s strong focus on research is the decision to establish a centre of excellence in missile systems integration, including sophisticated electronics and laser guidance under the joint Invest NI, Department of Employment and Learning and EU-backed Research and Technology Development Programme.

“This £4.5 million investment carries forward the company’s focus in this area which began in 1996 and has so far contributed to their success in securing six major contracts totalling over £400 million. This new investment will position the Belfast operation for further growth in terms of its product portfolio and overall business.

“This investment is another significant endorsement by Thales - a global leader in defence electronics - of Northern Ireland as a international technology centre,” he added.

Ian Pearson said TADL’s achievements supported Invest NI’s strategic focus on encouraging more companies to invest in R&D as a route to sustainable growth.

The Minister said: “In today’s intensely competitive marketplace companies such as TADL which are committed to innovation at all levels of their operations are better able to compete and succeed.”

The Minister was welcomed by Millar Crawford, TADL Chief Executive Officer, and met other members of the management team during his visit.

Mr Crawford said: “Our research efforts benefit enormously from the supportive approach of the Government, the range of R&D programmes provided by Invest NI and the excellence of the two universities here in key disciplines such as electronics engineering and software.

“These factors underpin our position as the centre of excellence for missile design and manufacture within the Thales Group and have enabled us to extend our expertise from air defence into other key sectors,” he added.