The drive towards technology-led warfare and surveillance helped UK defence systems specialist Ultra Electronics to notch up another period of strong growth.
Ultra, which develops world-leading technologies in niche areas such as naval sonobuoys, electro-optical tracking and battlefield IT networks, saw sales and profits grow by eight and 13 per cent respectively in the first half of 2004.
The company made £18m before tax on sales of £147m. Like other UK specialists in the fields, Ultra has benefited from the expansion of US defence and security budgets. This encompasses the armed forces, which the Pentagon is kitting out with ever more sophisticated combat and communications systems, and the burgeoning security sector relating to the US’s ‘war on terror.’
The latter has led to an increased demand for coastal and border surveillance systems and technology related to airport security and management, said Ultra.
The first half of 2004 brought several significant contract wins for the group, which has also announced two acquisitions of smaller companies operating in its markets.
The US awarded Ultra a contract for cryptographic equipment, and the company was also asked to demonstrate a new high-speed data communications system for submarines.
Ultra’s Surface Ship Torpedo Defence project successfully completed trials and is expected to enter service with the Royal Navy later this year. The US Navy has handed it a demonstration contract relating to a possible similar system for its own ships.
Development of the airborne compressor for the JSF continued to plan and Ultra boosted sales to the armoured vehicle sector, including the indirect vision equipment for Alvis Engineer tank programme.
Ultra’s acquisitions included DNE Systems, which designs and manufactures combat IT products used to control access to military tactical communications networks.
It also spent £1.4m on Videcom, which supplies a variety of systems to airports and airlines.
Away from defence and security, Ultra’s power systems division benefited from Network Rail’s upgrade of the rail infrastructure. Its civil aerospace operation has teamed up with the US’s Goodrich to supply the proximity sensing system for the Boeing 7E7. Ultra also has agreements with Airbus to work on its single-aisle and long-range aircraft programmes for at least the next 10 years.