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Monday, September 6, 1999 Published at 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK


UK: Scotland

Spitfire gun sight factory knocked down

The factory made gun sights for the Spitfire in World War Two

Demolition has begun on the site of a former Ferranti factory in Edinburgh to make way for a new multi-million pound development.

Plans to redevelop the site as a Marconi Electronic Systems centre for advanced radar design and manufacture were announced earlier this year.

The plant has been home to airborne radar work since World War Two and has been responsible for the equipment used in numerous Royal Air Force fighters including the Spitfire, Buccaneer and Sea Harrier.

It opened in 1943 and was owned by Ferranti, before becoming the home for Marconi Electronic Systems Avionics Division.

Spitfires and Hurricanes

The firm said the redevelopment of the site would help its Radar and Countermeasure Systems Division maintain its position as a world class aerospace company.

It was recently awarded the contract for the ECR 90 radar system, the most advanced in the world.

Dr John Reid, the Secretary of State for Scotland, was present as demolition work got under way.

David Lockwood, Managing Director of Marconi Avionics, said: "We have set demanding targets for our future business performance that can only be achieved through a close partnership with our employees, combined with investment in world class technology and facilities."

Ferranti was a Manchester-based company, which built Crewe Toll to manufacture Gyro Gun Sights for the RAF during World War Two.

The wartime output of gyro gun sights exceeded 9,500, with most going to equip the guns of Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft.

Diversification

The gun sight was described in a secret memo at the end of the war as "the single most important equipment" introduced during the war.

At the end of the war the factory faced closure, as there was no longer a need for the sights.

But the management diversified the plant to make broken thread detectors for the textile industry, scalpel blades and a toy film strip projector made under licence to Enid Blyton.

Over the years, Ferranti in Edinburgh pioneered the development of much of the airborne radar and navigation equipment used in military aircraft worldwide, opening new sites in the city, as it needed to expand.

In 1990, GEC acquired Ferranti and re-named the company GEC-Ferranti, and the company is now known as Marconi Electronic Systems.



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