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Thutlwa makes international debut

The South African Army Air Defence Artillery's ESR220 Thutlwa mobile battery fire control post and early warning radar has made its international debut. Manufacturer Reutech Radar Systems says a system was deployed to South Sudan earlier this month to support independence celebrations there.

The company in a media release says the South African government deployed a “military contingent” to Juba, the new capital, to provide radar coverage for the airfield there and to furnish the necessary airspace control for visiting heads of state and other VIP’s at the airport. “A … Thutlwa radar system was deployed at Juba airport to support the SA Air Force in providing radar coverage of the airfield for Airspace Management/Air Traffic control functionality,” the news release says.

After travelling more than 500km by road from Kimberley to Pretoria the Thutlwa system was loaded on board an Ilyushin II-76 cargo aircraft which flew another 5000km to Juba. The Thutlwa system was off-loaded, deployed and was declared operational the same day with an air picture via the Air Picture Display System to the air traffic controllers.

This heralded the first ever deployment of a Reutech Thutlwa radar system beyond the borders of South Africa, the company says, and only the third ever operational deployment in an “operation other than war” mission for the system, the first being the 2010 Soccer World Cup and the second an air border safeguarding operation earlier this year.

Four of the systems were ordered in 1996 under Project Bioskoop and delivered by 2006. The Thutlwa is described as a highly mobile solid state L-band 2D surveillance radar designed to provide early warning to air defence artillery troops in the field. It is a fully autonomous armoured system with self-contained power plant packaged on a Spanish-designed Kynos Aljaba 8x8 (“Skimmel” in SANDF parlance) truck, and is capable of being fully operational within 10 minutes of arrival at the deployment site.

The system also provides for a combined air picture derived from primary radar and IFF (identification, friend or foe), as well as a command and control system for effective air defence control. “The high mobility nature of the system, which is transported on an all-terrain 8x8 transporter, coupled to the battlefield-specific local warning sensor design, make the system a pivotal element of the South African Army Ground-based Air Defence System,” RRS says in a sales brochure. It is said to be able to track up to 100 targets simultaneously to a range of 120km. The mast is 12m tall.

The system currently provides local warning, command and fire control to the ADA's 30 GDF 05 L90 twin 35mm towed cannon.


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