A strong return is on the radar for one private equity firm as Hensoldt snaps up surveillance business Kelvin Hughes

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Kelvin Hughes' products are used in navies around the world

Military sensors business Hensoldt had clearly been watching Kelvin Hughes for a while, as it snapped up the surveillance company today from private equity firm ECI Partners.

Kelvin Hughes, a global navigation, radar and surveillance business, offers services to navies, coastguards, civil infrastructure and cruise ships.

As well as being used on Royal Navy frigates and nuclear submarines, Kelvin Hughes’ products may also be used on the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers – the first of which is being trialled at sea this week.

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“With the support of ECI, we have developed cutting-edge technologies, introduced new solutions and expanded our global reach across 60 countries,” said chief executive Russell Gould.

Under ECI's ownership, the business won a contract to supply the Royal Navy with modern solid-state radar equipment for much of its fleet, launched SharpEye, the world’s first affordable and commercially available solid-state radar now used by more than 25 of the world’s navies, and established a new manufacturing facility in Enfield.

It also sold ChartCo, a digital navigation compliance business, for £55m to private equity firm Equistone.

Kelvin Hughes has an impressive heritage. Dating back more than 250 years, it developed the original commercial radar in 1947.

The latest sale has made more than a three-times return on investment for ECI, which bought a stake in the company in 2007 in a £52m deal.

The new buyer, Hensoldt, is a former division of Airbus and is owned by US private equity giant KKR.

Read more: The Ministry of Defence announced a £269m deal for a new surveillance system that will sustain 200 job