Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space contracted to destroy First World War chemical weapons

• The French Ministry of Defence has selected Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for the SECOIA programme, scheduled to last more than 20 years

• The SECOIA programme covers the destruction of 42 tonnes of chemical weapons each year whilst ensuring maximum levels of safety

Paris, 30 May 2011 – The French Ministry of Defence has selected Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for the SECOIA programme (French abbreviation for "destruction site for stockpile of old weapons"), which covers the design, construction and operation of a specialised plant for the destruction of chemical weapons from World War 1.

The programme is part of France's commitments within the framework of the Chemical Weapons Convention which came into force on 29 April 1997. The objective is to destroy unexploded chemical weapons discovered each year on former battlefields in northern and eastern France while at the same time ensuring maximum safety levels for people, the environment and property.

SECOIA will employ an automated system at the Mailly-le-Camp site (Aube, France) to destroy 42 tonnes of chemical weapons per year beginning in 2016. The weapons are currently stored by the French Interior Ministry in Suippes, France (Marne).

The plant developed by Airbus Defence and Space will make use of specially adapted equipment, and all weapon handling operations will be entirely remotely controlled. Pyro-chemical safety measures will also be implemented for the entire process, from the initial unloading of the weapons through to their final destruction.

The process that will be implemented will ensure complete control over the waste and the processing via specialized systems. All environmental regulations will be strictly respected and the site will be integrated in Europe's Natura 2000 ecology network.

In its role as industrial prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space will provide comprehensive services throughout the programme, and will operate the plant during the operational phase.

To ensure the programme's success, Airbus Defence and Space will draw on its extensive experience in a wide range of high-technology fields: the development of complex systems and secure infrastructures, and the design and manufacture of automated, functional workshops that respect the highest requirements in pyrotechnic safety. Many of these skills were developed by Airbus Defence and Space to support France’s ocean-going ballistic deterrent capability at the Ile Longue ballistic submarine base.

The technical solution selected by Airbus Defence and Space to destroy the chemical weapons will make use of a detonation chamber, a concept that has already proven its operational efficiency in several countries. Belgium for example has been successfully using this same technique for several years in a non-automated facility.

As prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space has opted for proven technology developed by recognised industrial specialists. A case in point is KOBE STEEL, a specialist in the destruction of old chemical weapons via detonation in a shielded enclosure. Airbus Defence and Space will be benefitting from the extensive experience of the Japanese company, which has equipped several plants operating in Europe and around the world (Belgium, Japan, China and the United States).

The second major industrial partner of Airbus Defence and Space is the company TREDI, a subsidiary of the French group SECHE Environment, a recognised specialist in the processing of industrial chemical waste in strict compliance with environmental regulations.

The SECOIA programme is scheduled to last over 20 years, comprising two main phases: an initial period of a little more than four years to design, build and commission the facility, and the operational phase that should last more than 15 years.


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services.

In 2010, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €5 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment, and Airbus Defence and Space for comprehensive end-to-end solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geo-information and navigation services worldwide.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2010, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 45.8 billion and employed a workforce of nearly 122,000.


Press contacts:

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                                      Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 8180

Astrid Emerit (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                                                        Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 93

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                                   Tel.: +49 (0) 89 607 33971

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                                 Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41


Airbus Defence and Space