Next generation ISR equipment to be demonstrated in SA


The South African airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) community will next week see a Viking Twin Otter Guardian 400 aircraft fitted with state-of-the-art equipment as part of the Africa leg of the Guardian 400 World Tour organized by Viking and Airborne Technologies (ABT).

The DHC-6-400 aircraft and its “goodies” including a Hensoldt Argos II electro-optical infrared camera in Airborne Technologies’ detachable Self-Contained Aerial Reconnaissance (SCAR) pod, a Sentient ViDAR (Visual Detection and Ranging optical radar) system and fully integrated digital avionics suite will be in Lanseria, South Africa, one of a number of stops on the continent.

As with other stops, the South African one in Gauteng will give an insight into advanced maritime patrol and ISR work. Dr Luthando Prinsloo, Director: Business Development Africa for Airborne Technologies, the Austrian company partnering in this project, said the intention is to demonstrate detection and tracking from various altitudes against a range of contacts.

“Host countries will be invited to explore specific flight plans and demonstration options with us – the closer to real requirements, the better,” Prinsloo said, adding “flights will always be conducted only with permission from the hosts”.

Demonstrations of the Guardian 400 maritime patrol (MPA)/ISR solutions include maritime domain awareness; search and rescue over sea and land; naval, coast guard and border agency support; long range and large area infrastructure over-watch – petroleum production platforms, shipping, pipelines, roads, rail and power lines; counter piracy and counter insurgency operations; counter drone and counter poaching operations; communication and electronic intelligence services; and city, regional and provincial aerial over watch.

The surveillance architecture of the aircraft has been designed by Airborne Technologies. Their integration solution, Airborne LINX, fuses all critical sensors on board the aircraft and provides an easy-to-handle user interface. ABT provides professional airborne sensing solutions. The company is active in 45 countries with a demonstrated reputation as a reliable police, government and military partner, it said.

The South African Air Force was seeking maritime patrol/surveillance aircraft under Project Metsie and light transport aircraft under Project Kiepie to replace its C-47TPs and C212s respectively (these projects evolved from Project Saucepan) but Metsie and Kiepie have been deferred due to a lack of funding. However, the Air Force and other organisations may be interested in the Guardian 400. In particular, the detachable Self-Contained Aerial Reconnaissance (SCAR) pod system offers a force multiplier opportunity to existing platforms, Airborne Technologies said.

The Guardian 400 is due in Lanseria from 2-5 December. After that it is scheduled to stop in Cape Town, Botswana, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal, with the African leg of the World Tour wrapping up at the end of January.

Canada-based Viking Air Limited said the Guardian 400’s World Tour will take around nine months and cover Europe, the Middle East, India, Africa, South East Asia, Oceania, and North America. After the Dubai Air Show earlier this month and the Africa leg of the tour, the Twin Otter is due to appear at the Singapore Air Show in February 2020, and CANSEC in Canada in May.

Viking is pitching the Guardian 400 as a low-cost multi-role platform for maritime surveillance, search and rescue, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, among other missions. In addition to the new sensors, the Guardian 400 has an increased take-off weight and extended-range internal patrol tank that allows for operational sorties of more than 10 hours. Special mission Twin Otters are already flown by the US Army, Vietnamese Navy, SENAN Panama and United Arab Emirates Air Force.

According to flight tracking data, the Guardian 400 (C-GVKI) left Dubai on 25 November and arrived in Riyadh that same day before heading to Jeddah on the 26th. It arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 28 November, with its next stop Mozambique.