Reutech launches book on radar in South Africa


Reutech Radar Systems yesterday launched a new book detailing the history of radar in South Africa and 25 years of Reutech Radar Systems.

Radar is celebrating 75 years in South Africa, with the first system tested in Johannesburg on 16 December 1939. Reutech Radar Systems (RRS) said that the history of radar in the country is closely intertwined with RRS and this is detailed in the book entitled RRS: 25 Years of Innovation.

Radar development in South Africa began when the British government decided in February 1939 to let members of the Commonwealth in on the emerging technology of radar so they could help with its development and deployment. A small team under Sir Basil Schonland, head of the Bernard Price Institute of Geophysical Research at the University of the Witwatersrand soon developed a system, which was tested in December 1939.

By the mid-1970s South Africa had built up radar expertise, particularly at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the military and Armscor but there was little capacity to build its own radar systems. One of the few companies to locally develop and produce radars was Reutech Radar Systems, founded in 1987 as ESD-South and headed by Managing Director Boel Pretorius. With the help of Stellenbosch University Professor Pieter van der Walt and his students, and the support of the Defence Force and Armscor, RRS began developing radars for South Africa.

The company’s first success was the Kameelperd truck mounted air defence radar which remains in service with the South African National Defence Force, in upgraded form. RRS in 1999 received a contract to provide radars for the South African Navy and later achieved a major success with the export of helicopter control radars for the Royal Norwegian Navy’s Fridtjof Nansen frigates.

Reutech radars have been sold to some 20 countries but the company offers other products such as mining radars, tracking systems for concentrated solar plants and shock protection systems. It has also provided components for the South African Large Telescope (SALT).

Speaking at the book launch in Centurion yesterday, Armscor acting divisional head of radar and electronic warfare Molahlegi Molope said it was important to have 100% South African companies like RRS to maintain and develop skills and innovation.

RRS: 25 Years of Innovation tells the story of RRS, its technologies and people from inception to today and how it diversified from military radar to commercial products and systems. Today around half of RRS revenue comes from civil and half from military business with a similar split regarding domestic and export revenue.

CEO Carl Kies said that, “we have proven expertise among others in mechanical design, systems engineering, project management, radio frequency electronic design, signal processing, software design and development, antenna system design, digital electronic design, synthesizer design, power amplifier design and logistics. Add to this the skills we have assembled in terms of support systems.”