SAAF completes radar upgrade


Eleven years and R32 million later, the SAAF wraps up Project Macaw.Eleven years and R32 million later (in 2005 value), the South African Air Force (SAAF) is wrapping up Project Macaw. The endeavour saw the military flying service upgrade its airfield radar systems and associated ICT.

Defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota told Parliament the project allowed the SAAF to acquire six new airfield radar sets and upgrade one transportable system. The mobile radar also received a life extension.

The digital radars use state-of-the-art processor technology to track and display all aircraft in flight in the immediate proximity of SAAF air bases, as well as the movement of aircraft on the ground. The data is displayed to air and ground traffic controllers, and is digitally stored for later analysis, if required.

Obsolete technology

Lekota also updated MPs on the cockpit upgrade of the Pilatus Astra basic trainer used by the air force. He told MPs in a written answer to questions that 35 of the Astra aircraft are scheduled for an upgrade at a cost of R400 million.

The minister said the central cockpit display started discolouring to the point where most of the liquid crystal displays were becoming unreadable. “These displays were supplied in the early 1990s by a now-defunct local company and have become obsolete to the extent that they have to be replaced,” his answer said in part.

“Subsequent to the initial estimates, further engineering studies were conducted and it was concluded that the only lasting solution to the Astra avionics obsolescence problems was a total cockpit upgrade.”

The minister added the upgrade would be conducted by Pilatus, the original equipment manufacturer. “The upgrade will extend the lifespan of the Astra by a further 20 years. Armscor has been given the authority to negotiate timescales to meet the SAAF`s requirement before the contract is placed.”

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