Sagem's Smart Weapons, Threat-Detection Business Thriving

 - November 12, 2011, 7:03 AM

In an interview ahead of the Dubai Air Show, Philippe Petitcolin, Safran’s president for defense and security and CEO of the French company’s subsidiary Sagem, said the company’s (Stand W325) defense and security businesses are thriving, especially in smart weapons and threat detection at airports, and it sees no let-up in activity. The recent decline in defense revenues in the third quarter was “due to delivery fluctuations during the year” rather than structural causes. He anticipates no overall slide on this side of the business for 2011 or 2012.

Separately, the growth trend in the security business is expected to continue, said Petitcolin. “This is organic growth and we see 2011 growing 10 percent or so over 2010,” he said, adding that this is a general trend in the security industry.

A recent addition to Safran’s security portfolio was L-1 Identity Solutions, now part of Morpho (as MorphoTrust). “It has been part of the group since this summer,” Petitcolin said. MorphoTrust has three main fields of activity: biometry, credentials (that is, identity documents) and associated services.

“One area of technology leadership for us is biometry,” he said. Another is luggage security at airports, where Morpho’s tomography equipment scans the luggage that goes into aircraft holds. “We sell some when a new airport is built and there is also a replacement market,” Petitcolin told AIN. When security standards evolve, airports need to upgrade. “Europe is still trailing the U.S. in that regard; some airports have voluntarily upgraded but we hope new standards will make it compulsory for the other ones to upgrade as well,” he said. Morpho sells between 50 and 100 tomographs per year.

Meanwhile, sister company Sagem is seeing little future for its Sperwer family of unmanned aerial vehicles. “To be honest, we might still have a few sales opportunities but there are now more sophisticated UAVs on the market,” Petitcolin admitted. The optronics may still be improved, though, with new IR sensors and a remote video terminal. The CEO stressed, however, that the Sperwer UAV is “robust and competitively priced.”

Sagem’s AASM Hammer modular air-to-ground weapon has entered service recently with the French air force; the smart bomb was used in Libya “with great success.” Petitcolin expressed hope that the first export contract would be sealed “in the coming months.”

The AASM Hammer is part of the Dassault Rafale figher proposal to the UAE, although it may also be sold independently. In Abu Dhabi, Sagem established a joint venture two years ago with Baynuna Aviation Technology. Known as Sagembat, the group focuses on the development, delivery and support of high-technology products, including smart weapons.

In addition, Emirates Identity Authority has chosen Morpho to devise an integrated public records system, including the production of smart cards based on biometric recognition. Safran also created a company dubbed EIMASS (Electronic Identity Management And Security Solutions) as a joint venture with the privatization department of Abu Dhabi police “to develop the security market in the UAE and region-wide.”

In Russia, Sagem signed a contract with JSC Rosoboronexport and ZAO Inertial Technologies last summer for the creation of RS Alliance, a joint venture specializing in inertial navigation systems for military aircraft. It was formed to manufacture the new fifth-generation LINS-100RS inertial navigation system, which integrates latest generation digital laser gyros. “It is being designed for military aircraft, including fifth-generation fighters,” Petitcolin said.