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BAE Systems Pays $86 Million for Storied Imaging Company

What began more than 70 years ago as an invention in aerial photography became a recent $86 million acquisition by the world’s second-largest defense firm.

BAE Systems said it is acquiring storied Fairchild Imaging to give the large defense contractor stronger offerings in the market for electronic imagery.  Analysts noted aerial surveillance forms a critical link in the nation’s national security and strategic defense initiatives, particularly with respect to night vision capabilities.

Fairchild Imaging literally traces its roots to the birth of aerial photography. Scientist and industrialist Sherman Fairchild invented an efficient between-the-lens camera shutter and an associated timing mechanism that finally made photography from the air accurate.

In 1973, Fairchild Imaging produced the first charge coupled device (CCD), making semiconductor-based electronic imaging a commercial reality.  Since that time, Fairchild Imaging and its customers have produced hundreds of thousands of imaging devices in a wide range of configurations.

Moreover, Fairchild Imaging CCD sensors are on board the NASA Cassini mission to explore Saturn as well as the Huygens mission, which has landed on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Along the way, the company has changed hands several times. Indeed, BAE already invested in Fairchild Imaging by taking an 8.7 percent ownership stake.  BAE is a defense conglomerate with more than 100,000 workers operating in 100 countries and with $36 billion in revenues.

As a privately held concern, Fairchild Imaging does not disclose financial information. However, by contrast it has 150 workers at its Silicon Valley facilities in Milpitas, Calif.

“The addition of Fairchild Imaging’s advanced electronic imagery technology will support enhanced night vision capability for both airborne and land forces applications,” said Linda Hudson, president and CEO of BAE Systems.

After the merger, BAE officials said, Fairchild Imaging will become part of BAE Systems’ Electronic Solutions sector, based in Nashua, N.H. Key aspects of that unit include:

•  Aircraft Survivability: The company maximizes aircrew safety with comprehensive self-protection suites for rotorcraft platforms that also offer options for laser infrared countermeasures.

•  Border and Perimeter Security: It has technology designed to counter a range of activities including disputed borders, smuggling, economic migration, sabotage and national security threats.

•  Combat Identification (IFF): Designed to prevent fratricide between friendly forces, BAE’s net-centric combat systems also positively identify battle-space objectives ranging from dismounted soldiers to air, ground, and sea platforms.

•  Electronic Warfare and Countermeasures: With 50 years experience in the field, BAE Systems provides advanced radar warning, radar jamming, electronic warfare systems, and electronic combat and self-protection systems.

•  Surveillance and Intelligence: This unit also includes information warfare, mission management and communications systems along with the ability to attack an adversary’s information infrastructure.

This is the second merger of its type for BAE since September of 2010, when it announced the purchase of OASYS Technology. Based in Manchester, N.H., OASYS specializes in electro-optical systems and subassemblies that include such defense applications as night vision, fire control, reconnaissance and surveillance, and simulation and training.


Michael A. Robinson has written articles for some of the nation's more prestigious publications. As...