3 Acquisitions Snap Up RF and Microwave Companies Targeting Aerospace

August 09, 2021 by Lianne Frith

Acquisitions function as a fuel source of the tech industry. Recently, a trend of RF-focused acquisitions has been taking place. What does this mean for EEs and the RF industry?

Acquisitions in the tech industry are relatively common and can often take the place of research and design (R&D) for larger companies. However, in a niche industry like radio frequency (RF), they can pull even more weight with fewer companies in competition. 


A high-level overview of the benefits of 5G.

A general, high-level overview of the benefits of 5G. Image used courtesy of Thales


Another benefit to acquisitions is that they can also allow companies to branch into new applications and gain technical superiority over others. With the widespread adoption and deployment of 5G steadily ramping up for the RF industry and a race to lead supply to the military sector, acquisitions are the name of the game. 

Before diving into recent RF-focused acquisitions, it's first essential to look at the RF industry and why these acquisitions are important for the RF industry, specifically. 


A Glimpse Into the RF Industry

The RF industry serves many industries, with applications in 5G and smartphone equipment, aerospace and defense, automotive and more. The market has been growing rapidly and is predicted to reach $60.02 billion by 2026

Some of the key factors influencing growth include the demand for direct wireless connectivity devices and the rising popularity of consumer electronics. 

However, with relatively few major players in the market compared to the volume of industries and applications it serves, key companies are reshaping their product portfolios. The aim is to focus on the introduction of new and advanced technologies and innovating new products. 

With only a handful of key major companies and expected growth, why is the RF industry fueled with constant acquisitions?


Why Do RF Companies Seek Acquisitions?

Radio-frequency engineering helps drive the world across both public and private sectors; however, technology advances so fast that it's hard to catch up or get ahead of the curve. Also, there are very few signs of advanced RF technologies demand slowing down. 

Private companies, governments, and militaries are competing to have the latest in innovation. However, RF products in certain areas, such as defense and homeland security, have demanding and unique needs that the commercial market often cannot fulfill. It is this requirement that shines the spotlight on the need for R&D capabilities. 


The European Space Agency testing RF antenna coatings.

The European Space Agency testing RF antenna coatings. Image used courtesy of the ESA


Some RF technologies represent too small a market for companies to invest in their own R&D, such as RF components and subsystems for military applications. However, it is certainly an area worth investment. With acquisitions, companies can figuratively remain ahead of the game as RF technologies develop and evolve into commercial electronics and drive the maturity and affordability of the technology in other sectors. 

Now that a bit of light has been shed on the RF industry let's look at three recent acquisitions and break down what each one might mean for the purchasing company.


Recent Notable RF Acquisitions

Acquisitions are no new thing in the RF industry. Some recent procurements demonstrate their importance in helping leading companies provide new capabilities, grow their total addressable market size, and enhance their position within the industry. 


Knowles Acquires IMC

The first acquisition of interest comes from Knowles Precision Devices. Knowles produces various highly engineered components in the military, medical, electric vehicles, and 5G market segments. 

Knowles attempts to challenge high reliability, temperature, performance, and frequency solutions as a specialty components manufacturer. It also claims to pride itself on innovation and creativity and is always looking for ways to expand its suite of products further and meet customer demands, particularly in the aerospace and defense markets, especially considering its other recent acquisitions. 

Most recently, Knowles announced the acquisition of Integrated Microwave Corporation (IMC), giving it exclusive rights to produce and sell IMC products globally. 

IMC focuses on designing and manufacturing custom precision RF microwave filters for the aerospace and defense industries and is a proud supplier to NASA. This acquisition should enable Knowles to offer a complete range of RF and microwave filtering solutions, delivering ceramic and cavity filters for low frequency and higher power applications. 

By combining IMC's products and expertise with its engineering resources, Knowles hopes to increase product performance and better serve its customers. 


Mercury Systems Acquires Pentek

The second most notable, recent acquisition news is Mercury Systems, a global commercial technology company delivering open-architecture processing solutions to the aerospace and defense industry. 

An expert in powering mission-critical applications in challenging and demanding environments, the company targets safety as a critical concern. Having a long trend of acquisitions over the last two decades, Mercury Systems already has an impressive mix of pre-integrated subsystems supporting numerous aerospace and defense programs and platforms; however, there is always a gap that might need filling.

To add to its offering, Mercury Systems has recently acquired Pentek. Pentek is a leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance radio and data acquisition boards, recording systems, and subsystems for high-end commercial and defense applications. 

The acquisition of Pentek has the potential to be an excellent fit for Mercury's strategy. This addition could add scale and breadth to the company's portfolio, deepening its market penetration in core radar and electronic warfare markets and enabling it to accelerate growth through low-risk content expansion. 



Finally, the last acquisition to mention is AMETEK, a leading manufacturer of electronic instruments and electromechanical devices, focusing on analytical tools, precision components, and specialty materials. 

Recently, AMETEK announced that it was acquiring NSI-MI Technologies, a provider of RF and microwave solutions and services. 

NSI-MI claims to have expertise in RF and microwave technologies to deliver complete test and measurement systems for specialty applications across aerospace, defense, and automotive markets. The acquisition appears to be a beneficial one as NSI-MI looks to complement AMETEK's existing electromagnetic compatibility test and measurement business. 

With each of these companies and acquisitions hoping to improve their offerings further and expand applications, how do these acquisitions affect electrical engineers?


How Do RF Acquisitions Affect Electrical Engineers?

There is certainly a heated acquisition climate in the RF world. By cross-pollinating products across their combined global base, these large acquisitions between leading companies should work to put new technologies into the hands of electrical engineers. 

This availability of new technology means that their customer bases could address the needs of previously unreachable audiences. Also, acquisitions result in improved interoperability between toolsets. 


US Air Force Airman First Class Roberto Rodriguez, an Electronic Warfare technician, replaces a radio frequency component. Image used courtesy of the U.S. National Archives


While overlapping technologies may eventually vanish, the resulting solutions should be more cost-effective and accessible. These acquisitions may also help tackle the engineering recruitment challenges which defense companies face by putting new technologies and advanced solutions in their hands to encourage rising talent.


Featured image used courtesy of the US Dept of Defense



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