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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Small firms providing vital defence
By Will Smale
BBC News business reporter in Devon and South Wales

DT Media's Insight Combat ID system
Computer simulation makes soldiers make the right choices
The picturesque holiday town Totnes in Devon, a place normally associated with ice-cream and relaxing cruises on the River Dart, is home to a rising star in the UK defence industry.

Although it employs just 10 people, DT Media has made its mark with its computer program which aims to prevent "friendly fire" incidents.

Proving that the defence sector is not just about global goliaths, such as US giant Lockheed Martin and the UK's own BAE Systems, DT Media's vital piece of military equipment is now being trialled by Nato members.

Insight Combat ID includes photographs and video quality animation of virtually all current military transport, be it ship, fighter plane or tank. All military vehicles can be viewed from any angle and distance, and in silhouette.

The program is used to train soldiers, or even taken into the field of combat to help soldiers distinguish between friend and foe.


Managing director Geoff Tompson, a former RAF pilot, and two of his friends established DT Media just five years ago.

A soldier wearing BCB International provided equipment
Soldiers need plenty of kit beyond just guns

All three used to work together in the computer department of a training college, and decided to pool their expertise and set up the business after taking redundancy.

"We offer a range of computer training, simulation and animation products for both the military and commercial sectors," says Mr Tompson.

"We aim for our animation to be video quality, and for all our products to be as easy to use as possible."

Although based in such a rural location, Mr Tompson, says the geographical isolation has never been a problem.

"Logistics is not an issue," he says.

"With the advent of broadband, it doesn't matter where we are based, and if a client does want to see us in person, we simply go to them.

"It is nice to be based in such a peaceful location.

"The quality of life here is much better, and we have never had any problems recruiting the best graphics guys."

Hide and protect

Further north, in Cardiff, BCB International is another small supplier to the defence sector.

Based on an anonymous trading estate, the 25-year-old family-run business supplies the UK Ministry of Defence with everything from biological and chemical weapon protections suits to camouflage paints.

"A soldier needs a lot of equipment apart from armaments," explains BCB International sales manager Dennis Patient.

"For example, he may need face paint, which we make here.

"It is dermatologically tested, which some people may think is a bit funny. But if you are a soldier in a combat situation, the last thing you want to worry about is your camouflage paint bringing you out in an annoying rash."

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