Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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GEC: Defence

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Note: This is a sub-section of GEC

WWI GEC's military products included radios and light bulbs.

WWII the company was involved in many important technological advances, most notably radar.

Between 1945 and GEC's demerger of its defence business in 1999, the company became one of the world's most important defence contractors.

1955 Established a new applied electronics laboratories at Stanmore to create a defence electronics capability, initially centred on developing missile guidance systems for the Royal Navy.

Major acquisitions with significant defence components included Associated Electrical Industries in 1967 and English Electric Co (including its Marconi subsidiary) in 1968.

1968 After GEC's acquisition of English Electric Co, GEC-Marconi was formed to manage the defence-related businesses, including Elliott Space and Weapons Automation at Borehamwood.

The Marconi brand was used for GEC's defence businesses e.g. Marconi Space and Defence Systems (MSDS), Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd (MUSL).

1969 GEC reorganised the businesses it had acquired from Elliott Automation, English Electric Co, AEI and Marconi. GEC-Marconi Electronics was created with 4 subsidiaries Marconi-Elliott Avionics Systems Limited, GEC-Elliott Space and Weapons Systems, Marconi Communications Systems and Marconi Radar Systems [1].

1969 A 4th generation computer, not for business data processing applications, would be developed jointly between GEC-Marconi and GEC-Elliott Automation[2].

1978 Marconi-Elliott Avionics Systems was renamed Marconi Avionics Limited.

1985 GEC acquired Yarrow and Co Ltd

1989 GEC acquired the defence businesses of Plessey Co including naval systems

1990 GEC acquired parts of Ferranti including naval systems.

1994 BAe's bid for Vickers Shipbuilding was preferred by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission over GEC's.

1995 GEC's bid for VSEL was approved. Following the purchase, VSEL became Marconi Marine (VSEL), part of GEC-Marconi.

On 18th March 1996 Mr Simpson was confirmed as managing director of GEC as replacement for Lord Weinstock. In reporting the appointment The Independent said "some analysts believe that Mr Simpson's inside knowledge of BAe, a long-rumoured GEC bid target, was a key to his appointment. GEC favours forging a national 'champion' defence group with BAe to compete with the giant US organisations."

1998 Creation of Marconi Electronic Systems Ltd (MES) incorporating the defence electronics and naval shipbuilding businesses of GEC[3].

1998 GEC acquired Tracor, a major American defence contractor, for $1.4bn.

1999 January: a proposal was made to demerge GEC's defence businesses, Marconi Electronic Systems, and merge them with British Aerospace (BAe) to form BAE Systems. This transaction was completed on 29 November 1999. GEC then renamed itself Marconi plc.

2003 BAE Systems split its ship and submarine building operations - the VSEL unit became an independent division known as BAE Systems Submarines. This was renamed BAE Systems Submarine Solutions in January 2007.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 8 August 1969
  2. The Times, 8 May 1969
  3. Marconi_Electronic_Systems [1]