NEWMARKET, Ontario—AirBoss of America Corp.'s defense business, like most of those that serve the military industry, has been through some tough times lately.
But there are signs that its fortunes are improving.
AirBoss Defense, part of the company's Engineered Products operation, has landed two new orders for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protective over-boots from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Estimated value of the orders is about $15.3 million. The pacts call for the company to produce and supply a little more than 400,000 pairs of CBRN over-boots, according to Earl Laurie, president of AirBoss Defense.
The orders are an extension of a $20.4 million contract for 523,000 CBRN protective boots awarded to the company in late 2012. The initial pact has been filled, and production on boots for the two new orders likely will begin in the latter part of 2014.
Deliveries of the over-boots likely will commence by the end of 2014 and continue through January 2016, Laurie said.
AirBoss' two latest contracts are in addition to other orders the company recently garnered from offshore markets for the firm's CBRN gloves and boots, he said. It received orders for about 40,000 pairs of gloves and 30,000 over-boots from England earlier this year.
“We're working on other off-shore business, too,” as AirBoss extends its reach globally, he said. “This has been the year of the Europeans coming back.”
European defense operations needed to replenish their stocks because they had been very quiet for the last several years, he said. “And 10 years before that, European countries were very active. It goes in cycles.”
The company added sales personnel to cover certain overseas markets, and it is beginning to see positive results from the additions, P.G. Schoch, chairman and CEO, and Timothy Toppen, president and chief operating officer, said in the company's recently released second quarter interim report.
It is important that governments maintain a strong production base to ensure its military is properly equipped, Laurie said. A war doesn't necessarily pump up sales immediately, he cautioned, adding that sometimes orders actually start to lag for quite a while after hostilities break out. “It often takes time for the wheels to turn.”
It's difficult to determine what the defense needs will be in the U.S. and Canada in the next year, Laurie said. There could be some improvement on that front in both countries in 2015, according to Schoch and Toppen.
They said they anticipate some North American and international tenders will be released in the second half of 2014 that could impact AirBoss positively in 2015.
Schoch, Toppen and Laurie cited a number of new products, with significant design improvements, in various stages of development that should help the company's defense and industrial products businesses in the next two years.
Topping the list is a lightweight low burden CBRN mask that Laurie expects will be in production in 2015.
The mask has a low breathing resistant valve system that can drain sweat and moisture and an anti-distortion, anti-fog, ballistic protective visor.
It initially will use traditional filters, but in 2016 or 2017 it likely will switch to monolith (or self-supporting) filters, another new AirBoss product that's in the development stage.
AirBoss also is working on a new CBRN protective glove that is about nine months behind the new mask from being finalized. Laurie said the glove will provide similar chemical protection as the company's current offering, but it will be more comfortable, reduce heat burden and feature improved flame and oil resistance.