Denel Integrated Systems and Maritime gearing up for busy future

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Denel’s latest business unit, Denel Integrated Systems and Management, which was created in November 2014, is setting up joint ventures and engaging with various stakeholders as it breaks into Denel’s new market areas of systems integration, national and civil security, electronic warfare, command and control, and the maritime domain.

Ismail Dockrat, CEO of Denel ISM, said the new division has three main market areas it will focus on. One of these is sovereign defence capabilities as prescribed by the 2014 Defence Review and this encompasses command and control, electronic warfare and secure communications. Denel, as a state-owned company, is expected to take a leadership role in sovereign defence technology. Dockrat said the only way to keep others from interfering in capabilities like command and control is if they are state owned and controlled. “It’s what any nation would want to have in place.”

The second main market area is in the maritime domain. Denel ISM will focus on the integration of mission systems, naval support and assisting the Armscor Dockyard. Dockrat told defenceWeb the aim is to improve the operational capabilities of the South African Navy so that it can fulfil its mandate. Denel ISM will offer things like project management, system support, management, logistics support and other services to the Dockyard.

Supporting the Navy also ties in with Operation Phakisa, which is promoting the ocean economy through things like maritime trade, aquaculture, oil and gas exploitation. As peace and stability are prerequisites for economic growth, Dockrat pointed out that the South African Navy’s responsibilities will increase with Phakisa.

On the maritime front, Dockrat said the Navy’s projects for a hydrographic survey vessel and three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels were very exciting as Denel ISM is well positioned to play a lead systems integration role. “They are going to be model programmes for acquisition based on developmental objectives,” and will revitalise the local shipbuilding industry, Dockrat said, especially as they require high local participation.
“Denel is not intending to become a shipbuilder,” Dockrat emphasised. “We will form partnerships with these companies to support the South African Navy,” as well as export markets. He said Denel ISM was going to support the maritime industry with systems integration, engineering, logistics, programme management and other services. “These are areas where Denel has a lot of experience.”

The third main market area for Denel ISM is in the national and civil security sectors. The company has been talking to various agencies like the Border Management Agency, South African Police Service and State Security Agency regarding civil security, with very positive responses, according to Dockrat, who added that many agencies aren’t aware of the different solutions available within Denel. Denel ISM has also held meetings with the National Disaster Management Centre and in the medium to long term may look into smart city technologies like surveillance, fingerprinting etc. Denel ISM will talk to the State IT agency as cyber warfare and security will be a very prominent future area that will be developed from a commercial perspective.

The Border Management Agency (BMA) will become the focal point for border security operations and will integrate all border control functions. “Our experience will be very very useful in contributing to how the BMA develops its technology,” Dockrat said. “Similarly with the police there are command centre requirements.”
“The Defence Review is a key driver,” of Denel ISM, Dockrat said, as it envisions an expanded role for Denel. The capabilities it calls for include maritime systems; command and control; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR); electronic warfare; cyber warfare and cyber security; secured communications; integrated defence and security systems; national strategic projects; civil security; as well as training and simulation related to all these capabilities.

Dockrat said this also expands to the airborne side – for example his company would be able to play a big systems integration role in the imminent projects for maritime surveillance/patrol aircraft for the South African Air Force.

Although Denel ISM is aligned to support the needs of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Dockrat pointed out that “everything we do is on a commercial basis” and that the creation of Denel ISM is partly to develop new revenue streams that didn’t exist before in the group regarding command and control, electronic warfare, systems integration and other capabilities that are imperative to the modern battlespace. “There is a gap in the market for a systems integrator,” he said.

The short to medium focus is on the domestic market, and although export opportunities will not be immediate goals, Dockrat said export orders would not be turned away. Export opportunities will be actively pursued three to five years down the line. In a couple of months’ time Denel will go on a roadshow to showcase its capabilities.

Joint ventures

Although only five months old, Denel ISM has already created joint ventures with local companies. In March a joint venture was formed with GEW Technologies, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space, with the intention to pursue electronic warfare programmes. Also last month, Denel ISM announced it had teamed up with Aviation Co-ordination Services (ACS) to provide secure hold baggage screening services at African airports.

Another important partner for Denel ISM is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has lots of strong command and control and electronic warfare work which Denel can commercialise. The Institute for Maritime Technology is another promising potential partner.

At the moment Denel ISM employs around 50 people. However, this is likely to grow as the business expands and partners with other companies. Dockrat said Denel ISM has more systems engineers than anywhere else in the country. “These skills represent significant value in terms of future business.” Many of these engineers and software developers came from Denel Integrated Systems Solutions (DISS), which has been merged into Denel ISM.
“Denel is the trusted technical partner for defence and security. We already have that position in defence. We need to develop a position in the national security cluster,” Dockrat said, adding that one needs to think of Denel going from land and air to sea, space and cyberspace.