Philips Usfa was founded shortly after WWII,
when Philips acquired the
activities of some German-lead manufacturers of military products. It
soon became an important supplier of equipment for the Department of Defence.
The original company logo is shown below.
Usfa is the abbreviation of Ultrasone Fabriek
The company is well known for the development and production of optical
and night vision equipment and for their research on Stirling motors.
Philips Usfa also developed and built a wide range
of cipher machines
for the Dutch government, the police, the Dutch Department of Defense
and some of its NATO allies.
At its height, between 1977 and 1989, Philips Usfa had 275 employees
on its payroll and was located in a large factory at Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven (Netherlands). The image below shows an artist impression
of the building at Meerenakkerweg. Click for a larger view.
In the late 1980s Philips Usfa was merged with Philips subsidary Holland Signaal
and went on as Signaal USFA.
When Signaal was acquired by Thomson-CSF (now Thales) in 1990, the crypto
department went back to Philips and continued as Philips Crypto. The Dutch
government and the Department of Defence still had a number ongoing contracts
with the company and didn't want the intellectual property ending up in foreign
hands. They therefore insisted that the crypto-part of the company was kept out
of the deal with Thomson.
Approximately 60 people worked at Philips Crypto, where they developed
cryptographic solutions for civil, industrial and military communication
The year 2000 marked the decline of orders and finally, in 2003,
Philips Crypto was closed due to lack of revenue.
Part of the company portfolio was sold to other enterprises, such as
Fox-IT in Delft
and Compumatica in Uden (both in the Netherlands).
1948: First steps
Shortly after WWII, Philips starts the development of equipment for the Dutch
Department of Defense (DoD), at the request of the Dutch government.
For security reasons, the company initially starts the work in the house
of Mr. Trarbach in Hilversum (NL), who is
an employee of Philips subsidary NSF (Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek).
Some time later, the company is moved to the Hogerheide mansion
at 's-Gravenlandseweg, also in Hilversum.
1949: Moving to Eindhoven
In 1949, the company is moved to Eindhoven (NL) as most of the relevant
knowledge is present there at the Philips Research Lab (Nat. Lab.).
It is decided that the white building at the Schouwbroekseweg
(building OAC) will be used for this purpose.
Because the OAC building was damaged in the 1942 bombing by NAZI Germany,
it has to be refurbished first. During this period the activities take place
in a former school at the Catharinastraat in Eindhoven.
On 1 May 1949 the company, lead by Ir. Veldhuyzen and
is moved to its new location under the new name USFA.
In the early 1950s, USFA is strongly influenced by Dr. A van Wijk
and Mr. C.F. Amsterdam of Emdece, making USFA into a strong and reliable partner to the DoD.
1954: On its own
All this time, USFA operates as a HIG (Hoofdindustriegroep,
Operational Division) of the Philips Corporation.
On 28 December 1954 however, with permission from the Philips shareholders,
the USFA activities are separated from their 'mother' and move on as
an independant Philips subsidary under the name Philips Usfa NV,
with Veldhuyzen and van Wijk as its managing directors.
1956: First crypto machines
Rather than expanding the existing buildings, a new factory is erected in
1956 (building OAL) in order to cope with the ever increasing production.
Since then, production capacity is expanded several times and new
production sites are established.
At this time, Philips Usfa starts building the first cryptographic devices,
that were developed by the PTT (Dutch Post Office).
It is soon followed by the ECOLEX II.
A few years later, in 1959, Philips Usfa develops its first crypto machine:
the ECOLEX IV,
a one time tape machine
(OTT) or mixer.
1973: Change of name
In 1973, the board of directors decides to move Philips USFA under the
umbrella of the HIG Telecommunication and Defense Systems and
the company is officially changed from an NV
(Naamloze Vennootschap, PLC)
into a BV (Besloten Vennootschap, Ltd).
From then on, the name is Philips USFA BV.
1977: New premises
In the 1960s and 1970s, USFA expands its production capacity several times
until it is spread over several buildings and cities (Schouwbroekseweg,
Beemdstraat, Rijswijk and Helmond).
Because of this, and because of the deteriorating state of some of the
buildings, it is decided to build a new factory where the USFA activities
are once again reunited. In February 1977 the new premises
at the Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven is officially opened.
1981: Part of Defense & Control Systems
On 1 March 1981, Philips USFA BV is officially moved under the umbrella
of the newly established HIG Defense & Control Systems.
A few years later, following a series of reorganisations at Philips,
USFA moves over to HSA (Hollandsche Signaal Apparaten), another
Philips subsidary involved in the production of equipment for the DoD.
USFA is renamed to Signaal Usfa. They stay in the building at
1989: Philips Crypto BV
Because Philips wants to focus on its core business, the HSA and USFA
activities are sold off to Thomson-CSF (now Thales).
For security reasons however, the Dutch government insists that the
crypto activities of USFA are kept out of the deal with Thomson.
This results in a new Philips subsidary: Philips Crypto BV,
which will be located in the former thermal imaging factory at
Hurksestraat 9 in Eindhoven (buildings BAH, HBA and HBB).
The company also gets a new logo:
1994: Decline of orders
Since the turnover of Philips Crypto does not meet expectations, the
number of employees decreases from 1990 onwards.
Finally, all activities are moved to the refurbished building BAH,
whilst the other buildings are given up.
On 21 December 1994, at the 40th anniversary of Philips USFA, the
new accomodation, with its new entrance at Witbogt 2,
is officially opened.
2003: Demise of Philips Crypto BV
In 2000, Philips Crypto BV is merged with Philips CryptoWorks under the
CryptoTech umbrella and moves from building BAH to the new
Philips High-Tech Campus, a large site on the outskirts of
Eindhoven, where Philips Research is also located.
Here, the company concentrates on domestic cryptographic products
such as conditional access modules for satellite TV.
Finally, in 2003, Philips Crypto BV closes down due to lack
of revenue. The remaining activities are sold off to other
companies, such as Fox-IT in Delft (Netherlands)
and Compumatica in Uden (Netherlands).
The successful activities of Philips CryptoWorks are sold to Irdeto,
which still exists today.
Most of Philips' collection of historical cipher machines is scrapped.
- Philips Usfa (1949-1977)
Schouwbroekseweg, Eindhoven (Netherlands).
About 275 employees.
- Philips Usfa (1971-1976)
Founded in 1971 when there was a serious industrial crisis in Helmond.
Some employees of the Eindhoven site were relocated there, but many didn't want
to move permanently. Because of this, and because of lack of orders, the
site was closed again in 1976.
About 30 employees.
- Philips Usfa
About 36 employees.
- Philips Usfa (1976)
Not much is known about this location (see below).
- Philips Usfa BV (1977-1989)
5600 MD Eindhoven (Netherlands)
From 275 employees in 1977 to 65 in 1998.
- Philips Crypto BV (1990-2000)
Hurksestraat 9, 5600 MD Eindhoven (Netherlands).
Later renamed to: Witbogt 2, 5652 AG Eindhoven
About 60 employees.
- Philips Crypto BV (2000-2003)
Prof. Holstlaan 4, 5656 AE Eindhoven (Netherlands)
Later renamed to: High Tech Campus 5
About 60 employees.
If you think some of the information on this page is incorrect or if you
have additional information, please feel free to contact us.
Also, if you have old brochures, manuals, magazines, notes, or equipment,
relating to Philips Usfa or Philips Crypto, we would like to
hear from you.
In 1949, shortly after the company was established (1948), the activities
were moved from Hilversum to Eindhoven, as it offered better facilities
for research and development, such as Philips Research (Philips Natuurkundig
Laboratorium, Nat-Lab). It was decided that Usfa would be housed in the
so-called white building at Schouwbroekseweg (building OAC).
As building OAC got damaged during the 1942 bombing by NAZI Germany, it
had to be refurbished first. In the meantime, the Usfa activities take place
in a former school building at Catharinastraat in the center of Eindhoven.
The photograph on the right shows the Philips buildings at Schouwbroekseweg
in 1976, just before the move to Meerenakkerweg in 1977.
It was taken by Bauke Hüsken and published by Henk van Alphen.
It is now part of the website Eindhoven-in-Beeld
It has been reproduced here with kind permission from the site owner.
The 7 buildings at the center were all part of the Usfa establishment that
was caringly nicknamed Den Bult (Lump or Hill)
as the ground level was slightly higher that its surroundings.
Click the image for a closer view.
The road at the front is Strijpsestraat, but the Usfa entrance is
at Schouwbroekseweg higher up in the image.
The former factory buildings have since been taken down and the area
has been reused for housing development. In 2005, a small quarter by
the name of Den Bult
was opened at the former Philips premises.
It its clearly visible on Google Maps.
The location of Philips Usfa at the Oirschotsedijk in Eindhoven (Netherlands)
has been unknown to us for a very long time. Apparently this was one of the
most secret locations of an already secret defense-contractor.
This is the place where proximity fuses were developed and built.
In February 2012, the photograph on the right surfaced. It shows the highly
secret Philips Usfa building at Oirschotsedijk, seen from the air.
The photograph was part of the collection of Bauke Hüsken en was made in 1976.
It has been published by Henk van Alphen .
The image is now part of the website Eindhoven-in-Beeld
where a large number of photographs of the Eindhoven area are found.
The image has been reproduced here with kind permission from the site owner.
Click the image for a larger view, or
for a link to the original image.
A quick search on Google Maps
reveals that the building is still present at that location (February 2012).
If anyone has further information about this location and/or the products
that were manufactured there, please contact us.
Due to the every increasing demand for equipment by the DoD in the early 1970s,
Philips Usfa's production capacity was expanded several times.
By 1976, the activities were scattered over various locations in Eindhoven
(Schouwbroekseweg and Beemdstraat), Helmond and Rijswijk.
It is decided that all activities will be concentrated at a single new location
In 1976, a new complex of buildings is erected at Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven,
not far from the previous location at Beemdstraat. Eventually, all activities
of Philips Usfa are moved here and in February 1977 the new premises
(Complex U) is officially opened.
The image on the right shows a drawing that was made for a brochure
in 1977. The complex consisted of 4 interconnected buildings. The building
at the front acted as the main entrance, where the same drawing was hung
on the wall at reception. Click the image for a closer view.
Philips Usfa would stay at these facilities for 12 years.
At the hight of Usfa's activities, 275 empoyees worked at Meerenakkerweg,
but by the time the activities are sold off to Thomsom CSF, only 65 are left.
The premises at Meerenakkerweg is given up and Philips Crypto (which is kept
out of the deal with Thomson) moves to Hurksestraat 9, on the same industrial
After Philips abandonned the buildings in 1989, they were used by a variety
of companies. By 2012, some of the building were still present, but they are
enclosed by other buildings that largely hide them from view. The main building
has been taken down and has been replaced by several individual buildings.
The remaining buildings are no longer interconnected and are now separated
by streets. They are still visible on Google Maps.
- Several interviews with former Usfa employees
Crypto Museum, June 2009.
- Philips Crypto BV, Crypto Helder (Crypto Clear)
Newsletter at the event of the 40th anniversary of Philips Usfa/Crypto.
Philips Crypto Archives, 21 December 1994.
- Philips Nederland NV, Philips Crypto Eindhoven, informatie-beveiligingssystemen
Philips Koerier, November 1998.
- Philips Usfa BV, Introducing Philips Usfa BV
26-page full-colour brochure of Philips Usfa BV and its products. 1983.
- Military Technology, Philips-USFA: emphasis on development
Military Technology, Vol. VII, Issue 4, April 1983.
- Philips Crypto BV, How could this happen? ... they know about or plans ...
6-page brochure of Philips Crypto BV and its secure products. 1994.
- Eindhoven-in-Beeld, Philips - USFA, Oirschotsedijk.
Photo Nr.: 33994. Henk van Alphen 1976, Bauke Hüsken, Frans Gommers 2012.
- Eindhoven-in-Beeld, Philips - USFA, Schouwbroekseweg.
Photo Nr.: 26376. Henk van Alphen 1976, Bauke Hüsken, Frans Gommers 2012.
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