Cobham plc

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Cobham plc
Traded as LSECOB
Industry Aerospace, defence
Founded 1934
Headquarters Wimborne Minster, England, UK
Key people
Mike Wareing, Chairman
David Lockwood, CEO
Revenue £1,943.9 million (2016)[1]
£(779.1) million (2016)[1]
£(795.1) million (2016)[1]

Cobham plc is a British manufacturing company based in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, England. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. According to Defense News it is the 51st largest defence firm in the world, and the fifth largest in the UK, based on 2013 revenue.[2]


Cobham was founded as Flight Refuelling Limited (FRL) at RAF Ford in Sussex by Sir Alan Cobham in 1934.[3] It moved to Tarrant Rushton in Dorset in 1947.[4] It developed the 'probe and drogue' method of air-to-air refuelling in 1949 and Michael Cobham took over the leadership of the business from his father in 1969.[3] In September 1997 it acquired ML Aviation for £37 million, which had taken over Nash & Thompson, a major competitor, the previous year.[5]

In early 2008 Cobham purchased S-TEC Corporation, maker of general aviation autopilots for $38 million,[6] and in February 2008 Cobham bought the sensor and antenna systems division of BAE Systems for $240 million.[7] Then in June 2008 Cobham acquired Sparta Inc., a US defence business, for $416 million (it was renamed Cobham Analytic Solutions).[8] In September 2008 Cobham completed the purchase of the radio frequency components business of M/A-COM for $425 million.[9] In April 2009 Cobham agreed to purchase Argotek Inc., a provider of high-end information assurance services to the United States Intelligence Community, for $36 million.[10] Then in June 2009 a Cobham – Northrop Grumman 50–50 joint venture won the US Army's US$2.4 billion competition to supply Vehicular Intercom Systems.[11]

In October 2011 Cobham Analytic Solutions was sold for $350 million to the privately owned Parsons Corporation.[12] Then in June 2012 Cobham acquired Danish satellite communications company Thrane & Thrane A/S, making it the core of Cobham's new SATCOM strategic business unit (SBU), to include SeaTel marine, TracStar land and Omnipless airborne SATCOM product lines.[13]

In May 2013 Cobham acquired antenna systems business, Axell Wireless.[14] In July 2013 Cobham bought out FB Heliservices joint venture partner Bristow Helicopters.[15] In April 2014, Cobham sold Chelton Flight Systems and S-TEC Corporation to Genesys Aerosystems.[16] Then in May 2014, Cobham acquired wireless communications company, Aeroflex Holding Corporation for $1.46 billion.[17]

In August 2016, David Lockwood was named CEO, replacing Bob Murphy.[18]


Cobham Falcon about to touch down

Cobham is organised into three technology divisions: Mission Systems, Defence Systems and Aerospace & Surveillance:

  • The Cobham Defence Systems Division specialises in radar, communication and electronic warfare systems, and claims to be the world leader in advanced tactical military vehicle intercom systems.[20]
  • The Cobham Aerospace and Security Division provides a range of electronic products for airborne, marine and land applications.[21]

Cobham Aviation Services, part of Cobham Mission Systems, operates more than 150 fixed and rotary wing aircraft around the world. It specialises in the conversion and support of a wide range of civil and military aircraft, and through an FB Heliservices consortium with Bristow Helicopters at the UK's Defence Helicopter Flying School trains all UK helicopter pilots for the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and British Army.[22]


Carleton Life Support, a subsidiary of Cobham based in Davenport, Iowa, makes the MK 16 rebreather used by the United States Navy.[23]

The company produces the Guardian ST820, a battery-operated tracing device used by the American FBI. The device is secured under a car by a strong magnet. It is only available to law enforcement agencies.[24]

In his 2015 book Data and Goliath, American security expert Bruce Schneier wrote that Cobham sells a system enabling buyers to send "blind calls" to mobile phones: calls that don't ring, and are undetectable by the recipient. As described by Schneier, the blind call allows the sender to track the phone's location to within one metre. Schneier noted that Cobham's customers include the governments of Algeria, Brunei, Ghana, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United States.[25]

Queen's Awards for Enterprise

  • 2009: Cobham Surveillance, based in Segensworth, Hampshire, England, received a Queen's Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category. The business – formerly known as Domo Ltd – tripled its export sales in three years.[26]
  • 2010: Cobham Surveillance, based in Segensworth, Hampshire, received a Queen's Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category. The award was for the development of its Solo4 wireless digital audio and video link technology that improves safety for bomb disposal teams and law enforcement personnel by increasing the range at which they can effectively operate their robotic bomb disposal equipment.[27]
  • 2010: Cobham Antenna Systems, based in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, received a Queen's Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category. The business – formerly known as Chelton Ltd – continuously increased export revenues over six years and sells over 80% of its production overseas.[27]

Sports club

The company created Cobham Sports and Social Club, a members' club in Merley, near the main manufacturing site in Wimborne, Dorset, which is used as the ground for Merley Cobham Sports F.C.[28]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2016" (PDF). Cobham plc. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  2. ^ "Top 100 for 2014". Retrieved 26 March 2015. [permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Obituary: Sir Michael Cobham". The Telegraph. 24 April 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Tarrant Rushton - The Secret Airfield". Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "Aero History". Comcast. .
  6. ^ "Cobham buys S-TEC Corporation". Flying Magazine: 24. Feb 2008. 
  7. ^ "Cobham buys BAE Systems Division". The Engineer. UK. 25 February 2008. 
  8. ^ "Cobham to purchase Sparta for $416m". RF Globalnet. 16 January 2008. 
  9. ^ "Tyco Electronics Announces Agreement to Sell Its RF Components and Subsystem Business To Cobham Plc" (press release). Tyco. 13 May 2008. Archived from the original on 10 February 2008. 
  10. ^ "Cobham buys Argotek" (PDF). The Engineer. 22 May 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "Northrop Grumman, Cobham Team to Resume Work On U.S. Army's VIS-X Vehicular Intercommunication System" (PDF). Defence Aerospace. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Parsons to Buy Systems Unit From Cobham for $350 Million". Bloomberg. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Cobham ups bid to secure Thrane & Thrane". The Telegraph. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "Cobham buys DAS provider Axell Wireless". RCR Wireless. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  15. ^ "Cobham pays £50m to take control of helicopter firm that trained princes". The Telegraph. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "Cobham Sells S-Tec and Chelton Flight Systems". Flying Magazine. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "Cobham Acquires Wireless Communications Company for $1.46 Billion". New York Times. 20 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  18. ^ Wall, Robert; Panchal, Tapan (2016-08-17). "U.K. Defense Supplier Cobham Names New CEO". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-08-17. 
  19. ^ "About Cobham". Cobham. .
  20. ^ "Cobham Awarded US$40m Contract for Digital Vehicle Intercom Systems". Proactive Investors. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  21. ^ "Tucano avionics". Military and Aerospace Electronics. 21 June 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  22. ^ "UK to extend military helicopter training service". Flight Global. 6 March 2012. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Diving gear". Special Operations Technology. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  24. ^ Warrantless and Unwarranted FBI Tracking of Egyptian Student, 13 October 2010, Security Generation
  25. ^ Schneier, Bruce (2015). Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. ISBN 978-0393244816. 
  26. ^ "Cobham Surveillance Receives Queen's Award for Exports". Microwave Journal. 8 September 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  27. ^ a b "Queen's Awards for five Hampshire firms". Daily Echo. 22 April 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "Dorset Premier League". Retrieved 26 March 2015. 

External links

  • Official website
  • 75th anniversary[permanent dead link]
  • Yahoo profile
  • A 1950 Flight Refuelling Limited advert
  • A picture of a Flight Refuelling Lancaster refuelling another using the early looped-hose method
  • "Gas Station In The Sky" 1947 article on FLR's first in-flight refueling system
  • "F.R. Equipment Speeds Refuelling!", a 1951 advert for Flight Refuelling's pressure refuelling system as used on the de Havilland Comet
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