Jammer and target drone amongst advanced DoD technology projects

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Defence technology research and development in the Department of Defence (DoD) has led to tangible progress on several important projects, including a new radar system, low-cost target drone, and electronic warfare systems.

Brigadier General Andre Barends, Director Technology Development, revealed these projects when briefing Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) last month on defence research and development funding.

Over the next three years, over R1.7 billion has been allocated to defence technology development, although there is a shortfall of R221 million in 2023/24; R154 million in 2024/25; and R192 million in 2025/26.

In his presentation to the JSCD, Barends highlighted some advanced technologies being developed, such as a containerised communications jammer able to intercept, direction find and jam digital radios over a wide spectrum of hopping frequencies. The system comprises of a simulator that can simulate up to six digital radios, measure jamming effectiveness, and the 1 kW jammer. A prototype is due to be delivered to the South African Air Force and could be used by the SAAF at electronic warfare camps.

The Acepod is being developed for the SA Air Force as a technology demonstrator providing an escort jamming capability from a fast jet. The pod has a full electronic intelligence (ELINT) capability and X-band jamming capability to protect assets in an escort role. A prototype will be delivered to the SA Air Force.

As the Department of Defence has no more target drones left to qualify missiles and provide targets for force preparation exercises, it is developing a new target drone demonstrator. Denel Dynamics unveiled the new drone (developed under Project Loki) at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in September 2022 but progress has been slow mainly due to COVID-19 and the situation at Denel Dynamics. The tempo of the project has improved recently, Barends stated in his presentation.