Anglo-Italian company Aero Sekur brings a new range of ‘smart’ combat suits, battle dress uniforms and respirators/masks to DSEi and hints at potential UK-based production.
Some of the battle uniforms on display at DSEi are being made in production volumes for the Italian Army. “The Army is about to run an eight-year procurement process, and they’re looking at re-equipping their whole armed forces with this suit,” said CEO Mark Butler.
Aero Sekur is pushing for work in the UK defence industry and DSEi was a good platform to showcase their range. “We are looking to partner up with a company to develop a bid for the UK requirement, for which the products would be made in the UK.”
Headquartered in Farnborough, all manufacturing is done in Aprilia, Italy. Well-known in civil and military markets for airborne protection system, the company has focused on clothing and accessories at the defence trade show. Does this represent a change of direction in reaction to defence spending cuts?
“We are diversified, we are not reacting” Mr Butler says. “It’s important for us to do parallel-market development in all the areas that we operate in. The clothing range is a result of years of work and part of a planned process. We started start with combat uniform, do the CBRNe suit, then the sniper-suit poncho which protects against radar. Here – you put this on and, thermally, you disappear.”
The poncho suit is a new product under the Personal Protection Platform. Waterproof and lightweight, the material isolates the user from radar and from electromagnetic detection. CBRNe suits have an accredited degree of protection from chemical, biological and nuclear hazards.
Uniform manufacture is relatively new to Aero Sekur. “This is the first completely integrated [clothing and kit bag] combat system for soldiers from us,” says Butler. “We’ve got the materials technology, we can start applying this to clothing solutions. The design is important, so our pockets are not covered as you apply the layers – this is a problem where soldiers often get their local tailor to stitch more pockets on.
Gas masks now are designed to be more combat-friendly, with eyepieces designed for full-field vision that are optically pure. “These masks are like a pair of Oakleys, with polycarbonate glass so they’re shatterproof and no distortion in vision.”
Aero Sekur is a manufacturer with a long term horizon. “We have some things in R&D that, not only will I be retired when they hit the marketplace, I’ll be lucky if I’m still alive,” says Butler, pointing to example space agriculture systems, a market where Aero Sekur has focused heavy resources.
As defence spending is cut back across Europe and the US, is there a risk that defence ministries will favour more basic apparatus over this more high-spec kit? “There’s an increasing realisation that a solider is a very expensive asset. So there’s a lot of emphasis going in on making the soldier’s fighting environment better, especially on the equipment side. This has been yhrown into high relief recently, and governments are reluctant to cut infantry equipment budgets.”
Spending cuts have affected the firm, however. In 2010 Aero Sekur opened a manufacturing facility in Oxfordshire but closed it shortly after, because the contracts that the facility was designed to service were cancelled.