BAE Systems has purchased the Ball Corporation’s aerospace division for $5.6bn so that it can leverage the company’s pioneering space infrastructure solutions at a time beset by global competition across defence.
Europe’s largest defence contractor agreed to purchase the Colorado-based company, which constructs aerospace technologies and components from sensors to communications that provide data exploitation solutions.
BAE Systems is committed to multi-domain integration as “decisions involving many variables will need to be made in milliseconds.” Announced on 17 August, the deal will help BAE to build on its fledgling product portfolio in space, a force-multiplier that enhances military operations across all domains.
Ball Aerospace can provides core competencies in pointing, acquisition, tracking and real-time processing, which are able to meet the needs of the laser application market
So far, however, BAE’s space-based assets extend to its recent ‘Azalea’ cluster, a four multi-sensor satellite constellation that collects optical, radar and radio frequency data that it originally planned to launch next year but cannot until 2025 due to the growing number of launches.
Until now, the British defence supplier was focused on its contributions as part of the Team Tempest consortium working on the UK’s Future Combat Air System, as well as its development of Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
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BAE’s CEO Charles Woodburn explained that “the strategic and financial rationale is compelling, as we continue to focus on areas of high priority defence and intelligence spending, strengthening our world-class multi-domain portfolio.”
GlobalData intelligence tells us that the Ball Corporation registered revenues of $3.56bn for the second quarter ended June 2023, an increase of 2.2% over the previous quarter. Meanwhile, BAE forecasts the compound annual growth rate of 10% over the next five years, expecting the new space innovator to accumulate at least $2bn per year in the forecast period.
A player within US defence intelligence circles
Ball Aerospace accounts for 5,200 employees, of whom 60% hold US security clearances.
This is a considerable driver for the acquisition as space agencies in the UK and Europe have since their recent inception come to rely on the spacefaring infrastructure in the US as well as the innovation coming from their tech startups across its defence industrial base.
Ball has trusted customer relationships among the intelligence community, including the US Department of Defense and civil space agencies.
Proliferating weapon systems in space
In a GlobalData analyst briefing on the Future Militarisation of Space (August 2023), Aerospace and Defence Analyst James Marques notes the value of space-based weapon systems.
“It is time to appraise potential military uses of space beyond the common ‘satellite / anti-satellite’ paradigm.
“With tensions rising in orbit in recent years, it may not be long before weapons are turned on one another in space itself.
“Nevertheless, military presence in space is proliferating, and private sector innovation in the industry is introducing new possibilities that states such as the US are unlikely to pass on.”
As BAE Systems looks to secure its production of weapon systems at a time of fraught geopolitical tensions, Ball’s expertise in spacecraft, mission payloads, optical systems, sensors, scientific and tactical systems, analytical tools and antenna systems will support a broad set of products and dual use technologies to address C4ISR, missile and munitions markets across earth-bound and aerospace domains.
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