Cassidian – giving submariners a better view of the maritime environment


By its very nature the defence industry is a specialist one with greater levels of specialisation applied in specific products with periscope manufacture ranking high in terms of miniscule tolerances allied to robust design and strength.

That South Africa has this ability has again been demonstrated by Cassidian Optronics which has firm orders to deliver no less than nine of the eyes which assist in making submarines the most feared force multiplier in the maritime environment.

Cassidian managing director Kobus Viljoen knows full well just how tough the defence market is locally and internationally and sees the orders to deliver nine handmade periscopes this year as just reward for the effort put in by the about 300 employees at its Irene, Centurion, location.
“South Africa is one of the few countries in the world with the know-how and advanced manufacturing capacity to produce high quality periscopes for modern submarines,” he said when unveiling a completed periscope that will shortly be shipped to parent company Cassidian GmbH in Germany and from there to an unspecified end user.

As is usual with orders and contracts of this nature the South African employees do not know in which nation’s submarines their high quality work will end up. But this in no way detracts from the pride Viljoen has in the periscope specialists on his team.
“They work to the most exacting of specifications to produce a product that must withstand rough seas, the corrosion inherent in a saltwater environment, drastic differences in temperatures and frequent inclement weather.”

Proof of the ability of the Cassidian team to produce can be found in the navies of 19 countries around the world using periscopes emanating from Irene. Since opening its doors for business back in the nineties Cassidian has built more than 25 periscopes including for the now decommissioned Daphne Class submarines of the SA Navy. All three the Navy’s current Type 209 Heroine Class submarines are also fitted with high performance periscopes and optronic mast systems meticulously constructed more than 700km from the nearest navy base in Durban.

The entire periscope production process is done in one building which has a number of “clean rooms” where the highly polished glass optics are fitted into the periscope tube in a sterile environment. The 12 metre periscope is then moved to a specially designed building fitted with a tower for final testing and calibration before being shipped out to international clients.

Viljoen is justifiably proud of his team which also produces a number of optic products for airborne and handheld use as well as lasers and the necessary electronic equipment to fully utilise the optics capabilities.

He is a realist and knows the future success of Cassidian lies firmly in the international defence and security sector. But this does not mean the local defence sector is ignored.
“We are South African and are proud to provide products that make the SA National Defence Force and other security services more efficient. While the local market will never match up to, say the American one, I am just as proud to put one of our products into service with either the military or police here as I am when we crack a big order destined for a foreign country,” Viljoen said.