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S3 AeroDefense

January 22, 2024
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Using a screwdriver to repair machinery.

S3 AeroDefense thrives through commitment to world markets

Founded by three partners in a windowless basement in 2005, S3 AeroDefense provides spare parts and repairs parts for military operators around the world—a line of work that required it to come up to speed quickly in international marketing.

“Our very first customers were overseas, and so we needed to figure out how to do exports,” said Aksel Sidem, the company’s president.

The Milwaukee-based company, driven by a vision to deliver cutting-edge and cost-effective solutions to the military aviation aftermarket, experienced remarkable growth. In 2011, it added a certified repair station, offering a broad scope of in-house repair capabilities. In 2018, the company formed a strategic partnership with Dermond Aerospace, whose founders are pioneers in the military aftermarket.

Building an international profile

Worker diagnosing a problem on electronic equipmentS3 quickly built a reputation for exporting success. It was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2010 as the small business exporter of the year, and also received the U.S. Department of Commerce President’s E Award for exporting excellence.

Company officials are committed to growing international business; fully 100% of S3’s 120 employees are directly involved in international activities. Because of that, S3 employs a multicultural, multilingual team that, combined, is fluent in at least 14 languages.

As the company honed its export strategy, it took advantage of the ExporTech™ Program (offered by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Northwest Wisconsin Manufacturing Outreach Center with support from WEDC), which helps small and midsize Wisconsin companies tap into new markets with a customized export strategy. The firm also made use of International Market Access Grants from WEDC to conduct market assessments, attend a trade mission, and have a presence at the Paris Air Show, the premier event dedicated to the worldwide aviation industry.

“I heard about ExporTech and wanted to participate, and I’m glad I did,” Sidem said. “The ExporTech Program—it’ll fit all businesses that really want to venture out and start exporting their products.”

The contest—part of the Wisconsin Main Street Program, the state’s signature downtown revitalization initiative—provides selected businesses with funding to help promote change and success.

After months of careful planning and with help from partners, customers, and others in the community, the plans took shape. Ryan Jennings, the property owner and owner of the XO Fitness gym, helped with coordinating the larger physical space improvements.

Meanwhile, the local Main Street organization, Definitely De Pere, connected the Market Street Boutique project to other local partners and provided funding for the shop’s new exterior mural.

“We’re committed not only to achieving excellence in aerospace but also supporting WEDC’s mission to boost Wisconsin’s export economy.”

Aksel Sidem

President, S3 AeroDefense

Unlocking success around the globe

S3 AeroDefense repair centerToday, S3’s global reach extends to more than 55 nations, and it supports a network of offices in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Since 2018, S3 has created more than 60 new positions to support export growth and related activities. In addition to attending flagship aviation industry events, it expanded its presence at trade shows across previously untapped regions.

S3’s laser focus on international markets has paid off in sales. The company saw revenue grow by 31% from 2018 to 2022—notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic—with export sales making up 23% of the total.

The company’s commitment to export markets earned it a 2023 Governor’s Export Achievement Award.

“At S3 AeroDefense, we’re committed not only to achieving excellence in aerospace but also to supporting WEDC’s mission to boost Wisconsin’s export economy,” added Sidem. “This recognition inspires us to continue our dedication to innovation and global collaboration, furthering the economic success of our great state.”

Success Story

Taking Flight with Exports

Youtube video



S3 AeroDefense, Milwaukee


Achieve success in global markets, grow revenue

State support:

ExporTech™ Program, International Market Access Grants


Revenue growth of 31% from 2018 to 2022, with export sales making up 23% of the total; more than 60 new positions created since 2018 to support export growth and related activities

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