By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
CAYUGA—Local parts designer and manufacturer Battlefield International (BI) is making a big name for themselves on the international stage, with their custom-made parts – each laser-engraved ‘Made in Cayuga, Canada’ – found in unmanned aerial vehicles and land systems around the world.
Founded in 1997, BI first opened their doors at a facility in Hamilton before owner Steve Fenton relocated to Cayuga, with the help of late local business development specialist Wayne Knox. In the time since, they have expanded to four locations in the Cayuga area, including a design house stationed next door to their Kohler Road facility, another plant located on Munsee Street, and a third, smaller location in Kohler.
Fenton said BI first emerged on the international scene when an in-house-designed fuel coupler found itself utilized on the US-army standard Shadow UAV, which Fenton described as “a mid-sized drone,” with a wingspan of 15-feet. Working off that success, Fenton was ready to “go after the global unmanned vehicle market…. We will not stop until our UAV Coupler brand ‘Enduro-Link’ and the other UAV products designed and produced in Cayuga are considered the global standard.”
While demand for the couplers continued to expand, with Fenton noting Boeing’s Insitu UAV as the most recent product to switch fully to BI fuel system components, BI began looking at expanding into land systems after hearing about a large land system contract in the works from General Dynamics back in 2014 for light-armoured vehicles.
“We ended up securing all of the fluid quick couplers towards that project…. That was a significant contract win for us. That was over five years of production, around $21 million…. Once we got that first massive land system contract, all the land system producers globally, everybody wanted that business,” said Fenton, noting that the order value that was placed was worth $15 billion to General Dynamics. “It was the largest export contract in Canadian history. We got all the fuel couplers, coolant couplers, pneumatic couplers, hydraulic couplers for that entire program…. We had about 66 parts on every vehicle.”
When Fenton first learned about an impending BAE Systems manufacturing contract, he knew he wanted in for a chance to “win over the market.”
He described the couplers, which BI touts as being best-in-class, that have brought the company so much attention: “When you want to change an engine in the field, it can happen really quick. You don’t have to undo a hose clamp in the field … you just snap the couplers, lift the engine out, put the new one in, and snap them back in…. They’re really modular and quick.”
Fenton said that he cannot get into specifics about the BAE contract, due to the sensitive nature of the operations, calling them as an organization “very tight-lipped about the contracts they award.”
“We’re aggressively after the rest of that market. I can say we’re on a few other brands now, but I haven’t got permission to say who they are yet. We’re selling to UAV and Land Systems located in Australia, Spain, Germany, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Sweden, and South Africa. We’re on our way to being a global leader. We get nibbles all the time from companies interested in buying us because they know what’s going on here,” said Fenton of his company’s success, mentioning he has no plans to sell.
“We want to stay in Cayuga and turn this into a generational type of business. If we sold the business, we would make lots of money, but we would lose the jobs really quickly more than likely…. It really is something that has value in this community – we want to keep it here.”
Fenton said that recently two prominent racing teams, Red Bull and Mercedes, have also reached out to him expressing an interest in having custom parts made for their vehicles.
“We’re starting some development work for couplers that would be used in the cars, and since we have provable flow and pressure drop advantages compared to what they are currently using, we expect to secure some product placement on some F1 cars within a few years.”
Fenton said the focus of the business, however, remains on the unmanned aerial vehicle and land system markets.
While BI typically prices their products close to market value, they recently made an exception, supplying parts to a drone manufacturer operating out of Kyiv, Ukraine during the early days of Russia’s invasion. Fenton said that company has since relocated to Poland but continues to manufacture drones used by Ukrainian resistance forces in repelling Russian forces.
“It didn’t seem right to not give them a special break,” said Fenton.
He said that the company holds itself to a continuously monitored standard on who they will do business with, “All of our customers must be located in countries that are on excellent trading terms with Canada and the US for us to work with them.”
The company is currently looking to hire for multiple positions, including a Quality Systems Manager, CNC operators, and programmers: “We make sure we offer a competitive wage, and we also went to a four-day week, which has really made people happy…. We have a great crew.”
To learn more about Battlefield International and the products they make right here at home, visit their website at battlefield.biz.