Ultra Electronics Comms & Integrated Systems

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Ultra Electronics Comms & Integrated Systems is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Gavin Newport, managing
Rugged, reprogrammable crypto devices
are future-proofed and long-lasting
Ultra Electronics Communication & Integrated Systems
(CIS) produce market-leading secure communication
systems, electronic warfare simulation, intelligence
gathering and situational awareness technology for the world’s
most challenging environments, from fighter jets to the
Sahara desert. Ultra CIS is part of the Ultra Electronics group,
a world leader in the defence and aerospace, security and
cyber, transport and energy markets, with a turnover of over
£785million. The group has a small head office and executive
team that provide to individual businesses the same agile,
responsive support that they provide to customers, as well as
formulating Ultra’s overarching corporate strategy. This provides
CIS with the advantages of a small business mentality and
agility together with big business backing. Here to describe the
company at length is their managing director, Gavin Newport.
Our modus operandi
CIS has grown from being a spin-off of the communications and sonar business
into a standalone organisation comprised of four units, with a turnover of
£80million and over 300 employees. This success has been built on providing niche
secure communication solutions for a range of military and commercial systems.
This has been achieved by forming a team of specialist engineers, coupled with
manufacturing capability to assemble systems to the highest production standards in
»Managing director:
»Established in 2009
»Based in Greenford, London
»Services: Production of
defence solutions
»No. of employees: 300
»They work with MoD and
Ultra Electronics Communication
& Integrated Systems (CIS)
Highlighting best practice
a secure environment. Our customers
demand that we protect their data
both in the field and back home in the
factory – a demand we meet.
Ongoing support to our systems
is of great importance. We supply
comprehensive packages to ensure
our systems serve our customers well,
whether that is guidance in its use and
deployment or in field repair. This close
proximity to our customers helps us to
understand their needs and, in turn,
develop future systems to match their
What we are solving
Our solutions are used by governments
and commercial organisations
to protect against corruption or
information theft. This includes
cryptographic solutions, secure
communication, situational awareness
and electronic warfare simulation
and test systems. What is common
throughout is that the threat is
increasing, and therefore there
exists an ongoing demand for these
solutions. Another common theme
is that the necessary systems and
solutions must be flexible and have
the ability to change in pace with, or
in advance of, the changing threat.
The practical solutions to this are
programmable devices (software-
defined) and agility in being able to
produce new functionality at pace.
This functionality needs to work first
time and continue working, so – to this
end – we have invested in substantial
capability, in both automated
functional testing and environmental
test solutions.
Another area that increases our agility
is the utilisation of core IP across
a number of developments and
technologies. The aim is to design
functional elements once, and then be
able to utilise these elements across
our portfolio. This is to underpin our
technology, after which customised
elements are added to tailor the
solution to the customers’ needs. This
is a mix of ingenuity and innovation:
ingenuity, that is, to make the most
use of existing capability, coupled
with innovation to future-proof our
Examples of our capability
As part of the ECU RP programme,
Ultra developed a modern,
programmable, high-grade
cryptographic solution that could
replace legacy units. Physically, it is
comprised of a considerably smaller
core unit that can be housed in a
range of enclosures to provide form-fit
replacement for on-platform crypto,
enabling quick integration without
costly platform modifications. Designed
to be future-proof, the software-
definable technology enables it to be
upgraded anywhere, anytime.
This programme enabled us to develop
a close relationship with both the MoD
and GCHQ – or, more specifically,
NCSC. This close relationship, in
tandem with collaboration with other
suppliers, has resulted in a community
that can fulfil the UK’s requirement for
sovereign crypto and cyber solutions,
CIS tests all items produced
to ensure that they can
operate in the toughest
Our customers
demand that
we protect
their data
both in the
field and back
home in the
factory – a
demand we
while also building capability within
UK industry to take into the export
market. The export campaigns can
be direct Nato derivatives or expertise
that influences the design of our
commercial products.
In the communications sector, CIS
developed the HIDL (High Integrity
Data Link) radio, which has been
utilised on the Watchkeeper UAV
(unmanned air vehicle) to provide
robust command and control to
multiple UAVs and associated ground
stations. The HIDL unique waveforms
deliver a low probability of interception
and detection with networked secure
multi-way anti-jam communications.
The initial technical development has
continued to be refined and utilised
in a variety of products including the
Hawk jet trainer. In the Hawk, HIDL is
used to provide an air network which
is used for radar simulation.
We also have a range of products
that incorporate protection of critical
national infrastructure. This includes
situational awareness systems that
protect oil and gas platforms, harbours,
and even coastal diamond mines.
Looking to the future
CIS has seen its market change
significantly, with growth in export and
solutions for the commercial market.
Export has increased partly through
necessity as spend within the UK and
Nato is challenged. This has presented
opportunity where we have developed
solutions that have wider applicability,
but it has also had its challenges. There
are areas where clearer guidance for
ability to export products to specific
nations would be beneficial. Moreover,
assistance with financial mechanisms
to assist with ensuring payment would
be welcome.
People are the heartbeat of all
business, and nurturing them is
crucial to success. Recruiting and
developing the engineering teams
to provide the expertise needed to
continue expanding in a specialised
and technical field is a challenge. CIS
works hard to develop talent, such
that we can provide the necessary
skills through a focused graduate
development programme and
involvement in STEM schemes.
It should be noted, though, that it is
becoming increasingly difficult to find
engineers with experience of these
types of development. There’s a lot
of talent that has followed the path
of software application development,
and the more embedded engineering
solutions are not as common as they
once were. Finding people with this
experience, therefore, is difficult.
Consequently, a combination of
requisite training, enhancing existing
skills, nurturing young talent from
apprenticeship schemes and university
engagement is necessary.
As technology develops, the challenges
increase, but so do the opportunities
available – something to which we
look forward.
People are the
heartbeat of
all business,
and nurturing
them is crucial
to success
Integrated multidisciplinary
teams are essential for the
successful delivery of our


This article was sponsored by Ultra Electronics Comms & Integrated Systems. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.