Cobham plc

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Cobham plc
Traded asLSECOB
ISINGB00B07KD360 Edit this on Wikidata
IndustryAerospace, defence
HeadquartersWimborne Minster, England
Key people
Jamie Pike, Chairman
David Lockwood, CEO
Revenue£1,863.3 million (2018)[1]
£111.9 million (2018)[1]
£73.7 million (2018)[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.


Cobham was founded as Flight Refuelling Limited (FRL) at RAF Ford in Sussex by Sir Alan Cobham in 1934.[2] It moved to Tarrant Rushton in Dorset in 1947.[3] 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.[2] In September 1997 it acquired ML Aviation for £37 million, which had taken over Nash & Thompson, a major competitor, the previous year.[4]

In early 2008 Cobham purchased S-TEC Corporation, maker of general aviation autopilots for $38 million,[5] and in February 2008 Cobham bought the sensor and antenna systems division of BAE Systems for $240 million.[6] Then in June 2008 Cobham acquired Sparta Inc., a US defence business, for $416 million (it was renamed Cobham Analytic Solutions).[7] In September 2008 Cobham completed the purchase of the radio frequency components business of M/A-COM for $425 million.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

In October 2011 Cobham Analytic Solutions was sold for $350 million to the privately owned Parsons Corporation.[11] 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.[12]

In May 2013 Cobham acquired antenna systems business, Axell Wireless.[13] In July 2013 Cobham bought out FB Heliservices joint venture partner Bristow Helicopters.[14] In April 2014, Cobham sold Chelton Flight Systems and S-TEC Corporation to Genesys Aerosystems.[15] Then in May 2014, Cobham acquired wireless communications company, Aeroflex Holding Corporation for $1.46 billion.[16]

In August 2016, David Lockwood was named CEO, replacing Bob Murphy.[17]

In July 2019 the company's board agreed to recommend a takeover offer of £4 billion from Advent International.[18]


Cobham Falcon about to touch down

Cobham is organised into divisions:

  • The Cobham Mission Systems division is the world market leader in aerial refuelling.[19]
  • The Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions division specialises in radar, communication and electronic warfare systems, and is the world leader in advanced tactical military vehicle intercom systems.[20]
  • The Cobham Communications and Connectivity division is a world leading supplier of satellite, radio, and wireless mobile connectivity products.[21]
  • The Cobham Aviation Services division provides a range of aviation services including Search & Rescue and Flight training to military and civilian customers. At the UK's Defence Helicopter Flying School, it trains all UK helicopter pilots for British Armed Forces.[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, India and the United States.[25]

Queen's Awards for Enterprise[edit]

  • 2007: Cobham Defense Communications, based in Blackburn, Lancashire, received a Queen's Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category. The business was awarded the award for its ability to supply leading edge intercom systems to customers around the world.[26]
  • 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.[27]
  • 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.[28]
  • 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.[28]

Sports club[edit]

The company originally created Cobham Sports and Social Club, a members' club in Merley near the main manufacturing site in Wimborne, Dorset in 1971. Whilst this club is now in private ownership (no longer part of Cobham), it still uses the Cobham branding and is used as the ground for Merley Cobham Sports F.C.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Annual Results 2018" (PDF). Cobham plc. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Obituary: Sir Michael Cobham". The Telegraph. 24 April 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Tarrant Rushton – The Secret Airfield". Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Aero History". Comcast..
  5. ^ "Cobham buys S-TEC Corporation". Flying Magazine: 24. February 2008.
  6. ^ "Cobham buys BAE Systems Division". The Engineer. UK. 25 February 2008.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Cobham to purchase Sparta for $416m". RF Globalnet. 16 January 2008.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "Cobham buys Argotek" (PDF). The Engineer. 22 May 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "Parsons to Buy Systems Unit From Cobham for $350 Million". Bloomberg. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Cobham ups bid to secure Thrane & Thrane". The Telegraph. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Cobham buys DAS provider Axell Wireless". RCR Wireless. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  14. ^ "Cobham pays £50m to take control of helicopter firm that trained princes". The Telegraph. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
  15. ^ "Cobham Sells S-Tec and Chelton Flight Systems". Flying Magazine. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  16. ^ "Cobham Acquires Wireless Communications Company for $1.46 Billion". New York Times. 20 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  17. ^ Wall, Robert; Panchal, Tapan (17 August 2016). "U.K. Defense Supplier Cobham Names New CEO". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  18. ^ "Cobham snapped up by US buyout group Advent in £4bn deal". 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  19. ^ "Cobham Mission Systems". Airframer. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  20. ^ "Cobham Awarded US$40m Contract for Digital Vehicle Intercom Systems". Proactive Investors. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Cobham shares dive as it sells communication units to Viavi to cut debt". Proactive Investors. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  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 Defence Communications – Army Technology". Army Technology. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  27. ^ "Cobham Surveillance Receives Queen's Award for Exports". Microwave Journal. 8 September 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  28. ^ a b "Queen's Awards for five Hampshire firms". Daily Echo. 22 April 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  29. ^ "Dorset Premier League". Retrieved 26 March 2015.

External links[edit]