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Sextant Avionique: comprehensive integration.

Sextant Avionique: Comprehensive Integration

Export or die. To many a Briton these three words bring back memories of the bleak post-war years during which British heavy industry had no alternative but to export if it was to be allocated the Government-rationed raw materials it needed to keep its wheels turning.

Today, the Western World's motto is Unite or die. There are several reasons for this, one of which is not being forced to marry an over-possessive bride at gunpoint. For France's four main avionic component manufacturers - the Avionics Division of Thomson-CSF, Electronique Aerospatiale (EAS), Crouzet and Sfena - there was at least one additional reason to link up: the increasing trend towards systems integration in which individual units provide data to other systems or use data from other black boxes. All four firms were successful in their own individual field of specialization, even more so if one considers that Sfena holds 98 (yes, ninety-eight) percent of the world market for stand-by artificial horizon indicators. Thomson-CSF's Avionics Division concentrated on head-up, head-level and head-down displays as well as on the development of new-generation liquid-crystal flat screens, Crouzet on navigation equipment (including laser gyroscopes and space-oriented systems), Electronique Aerospatiale on radios and Sfena on control systems; there was a slight product overlap in flight instruments. The resulting lack of coordination and loss of efficiency in the ability to propose a well wrapped-up package were thus becoming increasingly suicidal in a world where time and money are the keywords.

From the financial standpoint, all the factors were present for a relatively smooth merger - or integration. Crouzet, EAS and Sfena were already subsidiaries of Aerospatiale, and Thomson had a large avionics division. The two leading companies each took an equal stake in a new holding company providing 54 percent control of Sextant Avionique, the remaining 46 percent of the shares being held by the stock market.

The new agreement came into force on 12 June last year and the Sextant Avionique company was born. As was only to be expected, it took the previously independent companies some time to sort out and streamline their various services, but the result is there: less than six months later, the company announced that the new structure had been defined and that it was ready for its official inauguration in early March by its Chairman and Director General Jean Segui and Director General Jean Monfort.


Sextant Avionique can today claim to be the leading West European avionics firm, ranking fifth worldwide. Total business last year amounted to FF6000 million of which avionics alone accounted for FF4150 million. In 1989, 37 percent of the sales were for the military market and 53 percent were accounted for by either direct or indirect exports.

On the workforce side, Sextant Avionique employs a total of 9850 people, of which approximately 6000 work for the aerospace and defence market.

Divisions and Products

The company consists of the following seven divisions (a few examples of their product lines are also given): * Display/Interface. In addition to a wide range of EFIS and head-up displays for the civil aviation market (Airbus A310, 300-600, 320 and 330) this division is now actively developing new display systems for tomorrow's fighter aircraft. These include head-up and head-level displays as well as a voice dialogue unit with a word-chain recognition capability of 200 words for the Rafale. The Display/Interface Division also proposes a smart head-up display for combat aircraft retrofit programmes. A voice synthesizer board is also being developed for the Leclerc MBT. In addition, the section is designing a number of helmet-mounted sights and displays for the Tiger helicopter. * Navigation Systems. This division's laser gyro inertial units such as the Sextan and Totem are, or will be, fitted to as many different types of platforms as the Tiger helicopter, the Transall transport aeroplane or Ariane 5 space rocket. Systems like the Nadir series of mission computers should clear any doubt as to which firm was that division before the merger. * Telecommunications and Science. Essentially space-related, this division exceeds the boundaries of European programmes and provides systems for both American and Soviet satellites such as Galileo and Vega. * Airborne Instruments. The various equipments - ranging from altimeters through angle of attack and sideslip indicators to gyroscopic horizons - produced by this division are used by about every military and civil aircraft manufacturer in the Western hemisphere including Gulfstream Aerospace, CASA, Panavia, Embraer and FAMA. A number of systems have also been developed for MiG A5 retrofit programmes. * Airborne Radio Communications. Secure radio communications systems manufactured by this division are used on the Mirage 2000 and the Hawk, and its TRM912 transceiver is specially designed for the Rafale combat aircraft. The Airborne and Radio Communications Division also produces airborne identification and surveillance systems such as the Atal pod for helicopters and light aeroplanes. * Flight Control Systems. Current development programmes of this division include pilot-to-system interfaces and related computers for the Rafale, and the automatic flight control system for the Tiger attack helicopter. * Automatic Testing. This division is not directly involved in defence or aviation-related products, but supplies production test equipment for industry.

The origins of the sextant can be traced back to the 15th Century and is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as an instrument used for observing altitudes between objects to ascertain a latitude.

PHOTO : Sextant's Display/Interface Division is working on voice command systems for the

PHOTO : next-generation Rafale fighter aircraft.

PHOTO : Close-up of pilot's helmet with display offered by Sextant for the Tiger helicopter. It

PHOTO : also offers HUDs and HLDs.

PHOTO : Among Sextant's other developments is this Smart Head-up Display for retrofitting to the

PHOTO : F-5.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Armada International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Armada International
Article Type:company profile
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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