LOCATS kept flying


The South African Army’s Air Defence Artillery (ADA) has spent about R3.8 million since February last year to keep its small fleet of low cost aerial target systems (LOCATS) flying. The drones were designed and built by IST Dynamics, now Land Systems South Africa (LSSA) Dynamics, part of global defence giant BAE Systems’ South African operations.

The SA Army last week by way of the Armscor tender system awarded LSSA Dynamics a R562 030 contract for LOCATS flying services. The ADA awarded similar contracts in December and February last year, worth R2.5 million and R798 275 respectively.

The LOCATS is a sedan car-sized unmanned aerial target tug used to train ADA crews in gunnery. It is launched from a ramp typically fitted on the back of a flatbed truck and recovered by parachute. The wingspan is 3.2m, the length 2.9m, height 0.9m and maximum speed 310km/h (160 knots).

BAE Systems acquired IST Dynamics and its product lines in April 2008. LSSA MD Johan Steyn at the time said the “capabilities of IST Dynamics complement those of Land Systems South Africa and further enhance the position of BAE Systems to better serve our local customers and to expand opportunities globally.
“Our combined capabilities will ensure that Land Systems South Africa is well equipped as systems supplier for key South African programmes and will also expand our capabilities as a prime contractor and provider of through-life support for such programmes,” added Steyn.

LSSA Dynamics is based in Pretoria and specialises in the development of fire directing systems, remotely controlled turrets; weapon stations and related fire control sub-systems; products and fire control sub-systems-related training systems. The business had 52 employees in early 2008. In the year ended February 29 2008, IST Dynamics generated sales of R75 million, with a profit before tax of R6 million, on gross assets of R79 million.

Development of the LOCATS started in 1989, with the aim of providing the ADA a low cost, rugged, and durable drone that could repeatedly fly target missions with the minimum of damage on recovery. The first prototypes were completed by 1990 and the system was in service by 1991. Since then the drone has gone through various enhancements providing mobility, modularity and fast assembly capabilities. To date the target has successfully been flown for various types of gunnery practice, missile development tests, and missile practice firings.