Public-private partnership a feasible solution for SANDF simulation training


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) does not use much of its simulation training systems at present due to budget constraints, but this can be addressed through public-private partnerships (PPPs) where costs are shared with industry.

This is the belief of Cobus Valentine, Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Product Management at Global Command and Control Technologies (GC2T). He maintains that public-private partnerships are especially feasible when non-critical/sovereign ancillary and supporting systems, such as simulation training, can be hired, leased or acquired through a service level agreement.

As the SANDF already has simulation training infrastructure in place, including servers and computers, costs will be relatively low if it decides to invest in constructive simulation solutions, for example.

GC2T and its predecessor company Saab Grintek Defence have provided constructive simulation support to the South African National Defence Force for the last 22 years, and live fire training support since 2015. This has covered simulation and live fire exercises for SA Army mission readiness training, formal training, and pre-deployment training.

GC2T is a 100% South African black-owned private defence technology company focusing on decision augmentation and enabled awareness with over four decades of experience in the C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) domain. It is one of the few original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in Africa to develop command and control systems. It is also the only continental OEM to have developed an indigenous constructive simulation system (BattleTek).

Its Chaka command and control solution is in SANDF service and its BattleTek simulation solution was in use until three years ago. GC2T is also currently providing BattleTek to the Malaysian Army. This is used to train forces up to the Division level. This system is an ongoing project with active support from GC2T and will be expanded in the short to medium term.

GC2T’s products are “made in Africa, for Africa,” Valentine said. Its Chaka command and control solution has been supplied to the African Union for the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in the Sahel. In addition to Chaka, GC2T has supplied the MNJTF with encrypted telephone communications, satellite communications and video conferencing solutions. Chaka is also in use with other African countries.

Growing need for simulation training

Valentine noted that the opportunities to conduct live training, particularly large-scale live exercises, are dwindling due to factors like the high costs of fuel and ammunition, environmental constrains at training ranges, and the need to minimise wear and tear on weapons and equipment. It’s also difficult to train on the latest technology as advancement is so rapid in this area. This is where simulation training comes in, either live (real people operating real systems), virtual (real people operating simulated systems), or constructive (simulated people in a simulated environment with simulated equipment).

The SANDF is facing numerous challenges, including budget constraints and the need to modernize its equipment and in this context, investing in constructive simulation can be a cost-effective way to improve the SANDF’s readiness and capabilities. It is also useful in simulating a wide range of scenarios for better force preparation.

“Simulation training can effectively help balance budget constraints,” Valentine said. “One shouldn’t do away with live training, but simulation training can reduce live training,” and its associated costs.

Constructive simulation can help prevent costly mistakes in real-world operations by allowing for extensive testing and rehearsal of strategies and tactics. By identifying and rectifying potential issues in the virtual environment, the SANDF can avoid real-world operational failures, which could have significant financial and human costs.

However, there are challenges, and these include sometimes significant purchase and maintenance costs; keeping up with rapidly evolving technology; training soldiers on how to effectively use simulation equipment; integrating simulation systems with other systems; and getting users to accept new technology.

GC2T believes the SANDF should invest in constructive simulation as a cost-effective way to improve its readiness and capabilities and develop a simulation plan that aligns with its overall objectives. “The use of advanced constructive simulation systems can significantly boost the SANDF’s operational readiness, making it a worthwhile investment for the future of South Africa’s defence,” Valentine believes.

Private-public partnership

GC2T has a Framework Agreement in place with Armscor that can be seen as a precursor for a Public Private Partnership between GC2T and the Department of Defence (DoD). The agreement covers the exploitation of intellectual property (IP) to the advantage of the DoD: with the sale of IP, the DoD will get a percentage of the product/s sold, which is paid into an account provided by Armscor. This agreement also regulates the acquisition price for GC2T’s products and solutions when acquired by the SANDF.

In support of this agreement GC2T took it a step further and adjusted its business model to cater for a once-off sale of licenses for its products. This means that the SANDF only pays once for the licence and does not have recurring license fees. Several other arrangements are also in place which greatly reduce cost to the SANDF such as providing a service to the SANDF, obviating the need to procure a system. “It’s a partnership that works and can continue to work in future,” Valentine said. Such a public-private partnership thus benefits both the SANDF and GC2T as a private company.

GC2T is the de facto sovereign command and control and simulation provider to the South African National Defence Force. The company’s core capabilities consist of the following:

  • The MALT backbone architecture: a strategic building block that is operating system and communication system agnostic and represents a radical departure from the traditional embedded software approach.
  • The Chaka suite of secure, digital command and control solutions, which provides near real time situational awareness and messaging across a range of communications systems and devices.
  • Asset tracking. These solutions enable the end user to track anything from a human to a combat platform thus providing the decision-maker (military or commercial) with positional information globally in real-time. This includes the Impi blue force tracking device developed for military use.
  • The Surveillance, Control and Air Defence (SCAD) system for airspace control. It includes both military and civil aircraft monitoring, integrating all available resources into a single, efficient air command and control solution.
  • The BattleTek 4 constructive simulation system for training decision-makers and support staff to prepare for a range of scenarios and contingencies. It caters for the modelling of “what if?” situations and allows the end user to prepare and respond to the unforeseen.
  • The Distributed Ancillary Information Display (DAID) is a system that enables the distribution of ancillary information or content across multiple displays in a network. The DAID offers numerous benefits for border safeguarding, management of national key points, safe cities, ports and harbours, etc. The DAID is an advanced, multi-sensor multi-site system designed to deliver information where it is needed, when it is needed, in a concise, user-friendly format.
  • The Chaka Nav tactical navigation system offers navigation under GPS-denied conditions with an integrated inertial navigation system ensuring jamming-free operation. Chaka Nav was developed in conjunction with local company Etion Create.
  • The Chaka Dismounted Soldier Command and Control System is designed to provide dismounted soldiers with enhanced situational awareness. By allowing soldiers to communicate and coordinate more effectively, the system also helps to improve mission effectiveness and reduce the risk of friendly fire incidents.

GC2T is the Diamond Sponsor of the Public-Private Partnerships for Defence and Security conference to be held at the CSIR International Convention Centre on 16 August. The theme of the event is ‘Bridging the Gap: Fostering Public-Private Cooperation’ and it will explore public-private partnership opportunities and strategies to strengthen South Africa’s defence capabilities.

Cobus Valentine will be one of the participants in a panel on the pros and cons of PPPs for the private sector, while GC2T CEO Ratilal Rowji will deliver a standalone presentation at the conference.

To find out more about the event, and to register click here.

Or contact Robert Mace: [email protected]