Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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Cytoon spending up to R134.6m

altSpending on the SA Army's tactical intelligence system has reached about R134.6 million. The SA Army last week awarded Thales Defence System a R67 205 764 contract for the development and partial acquisition of a battlefield surveillance and mobile intelligence processing system consisting of a battlefield surveillance radar, thermal imager and unmanned aerial vehicle.

The contract follows an award of R67 397 005 in March last year. Project Cytoon isseeing te SA Army Tactical Intelligence Corps gaining 14 Thales Squire ground surveillance radars and 65 Thales Sophie thermal imagers. Sources say equipment has been delivered under Project Cytoon for two squadrons with that of the third squadron on the way.

Battlefield surveillance radars are used to detect and classify moving ground targets, typically up to 20km to 30km. Additionally, they assist artillery and mortar units by giving feedback on shell impact. Besides battlefield use, these radars can also be deployed in peacetime to safeguard high-value area assets such as oilfields, power stations and grids, as well as other important potential targets for terrorist or criminal acts.

Battlefield surveillance radars also assist in counter-drug operations and monitoring illegal border crossings. As an example, the Thales Squire man-portable system, which was ordered for Cytoon, can plot a pedestrian at 10km, a vehicle at 21km, a tank at 28km, a helicopter at 21km, a boat at 12km and a ship at 48km, Thales claims. Because it uses a frequency modulated continuous wave Doppler radar, the Squire is also virtually undetectable to hostile electronic warfare experts, it says.

Thermal imagers detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Since most objects emit such radiation, thermal imagers allow their users to "see" their surroundings with or without visible light. The warmer the object, the brighter the object appears in the imager. Humans, with an internal body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius tend to stand out against their surroundings, which are mostly cooler. This also allows thermal imagers to spot camouflaged targets. Many modern thermal imagers include an eye-safe laser rangefinder and pointer, a compass, GPS and digital camera. The Thales Sophie can spot humans at over 4km, tanks at 10km, helicopters at 12km and jet fighters at 16km, Thales says.

Also under consideration is a battlefield surveillance version of the Advanced Technology & Engineering (ATE) Vulture UAV system developed and delivered to the SA Army`s artillery corps for fire control. The Vulture system consists of two Vulture UAVs controlled from a containerised ground control station. It is understood one system has been delivered to the AA Army and three more sets were being built for the SA Artillery, while a fourth was being exported to China, where it might be built under licence.

"The usage of such a system gives you the opportunity of doing surveillance and reconnaissance without being on the ground, without risking troops on landmines, without having to penetrate the bush," ATE director Lorris Duncker said in October 2006. This would be especially valuable to the South African National Defence Force peacekeepers in central Africa where large land areas have to be patrolled either quickly or persistently, and roads often do not exist, he said. The advantage of UAVs over aircraft or helicopters in this role lie in their lower operating costs, the fact that a pilot is not needed, and the ability of crews to change shifts while the drone is flying, thereby eliminating operator fatigue, he said.

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