French defence giants Safran and Thales signed Tuesday a joint venture deal in optoelectronics, a key high-tech military technology. Safran chief executive Jean-Paul Herteman and his Thales counterpart Luc Vigneron signed the deal, sought by the government, in the presence of French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet. The equally held joint venture will focus on the MALE unmanned drone project with Britain and a future helicopter, with cooperation both technical and commercial, a statement said. Both companies claim leadership in the sector, which covers surveillance systems, targeting and identification in all weathers and at any time of day. The government has been pressing the groups for two years to join forces, not only in optoelectronics, so as to cut research costs. This is \"a win-win accord ... which will strengthen our position in the international markets,\" Vigneron said. Minister Longuet also declared his satisfaction at the deal, not least as it will cut their research costs. The two groups also agreed to boost their affiliate Sofradir, specialised in infra-red detectors.