South Africa and Malaysia collaborate on advanced defence technology centre of excellence


Radar and sensor technology and electronic and network centric warfare are top of the priority list at a new Centre of Excellence for Advanced Defence Technologies.

The Centre is the result of an agreement to join forces between South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the National Defence University of Malaysia (NDUM). A memorandum of agreement covering a 10 year period that will see the two institutions collaborate on these crucial aspects of modern warfare was signed this week to coincide with Malaysia hosting the 14th iteration of the Defence Services Asia (DSA) show in Kuala Lumpur.

The Centre will be based in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and it is expected to be fully operational by 2016, focussing on research and development.
“This collaboration will support national capability development in Malaysia, in the areas of radar and sensors, electronic warfare and network centric warfare through the platform of NDUM. NDUM is honoured to work with the CSIR, which is internationally recognised as a research and development organisation with expertise in the fields of defence and security. We are confident this strategic partnership will lead to other spin-offs in the defence and security sector,” said NDUM Vice Chancellor General Tan Sri Dato Seri Panglima Haji Zulkifli bin Haji Zainal Abidin.
“The CSIR has a long track record in radar and optronic sensor and electronic warfare and looks forward to collaborating on a sustainable number of academic and joint research and development programmes,” said Laurens Cloete, CSIR interim executive director at CSIR Defence, Peace, Safety and Security, representing the South African organisation at the DSA exhibition and conference.

The centre will initiate and perform flagship technology demonstrator programmes and it aims to attract, develop and retain talented R&D professionals to represent a national competence in advanced applications-oriented engineering research.
“We want it to be the seed around which a critical mass of R&D capability and high-level skills will be built. International collaboration such as this demonstrates South African capability and benefits the local R&D community by ensuring we remain competitive on the international stage,” said Cloete.

As a multi-disciplinary organisation, the CSIR is able to contribute to the development and success of the Centre from diverse research and technology capabilities.

The radar and sensor element will focus on imaging and related technologies; target identification; advanced search and track technologies; beam-steering and active-phased array research; synthetic aperture radar; persistent wide area surveillance on land, sea and air targets; as well as software modelling and simulation.

Priority areas in electronic warfare are electronic self-protection, static or dynamic target signature measurement, electronic support measures and instrumentation for electronic warfare ranges for measurement and evaluation.

As far as network centric warfare is concerned, the focus will be on inter-operability, data fusion, extraction of intent and data dissemination, capability management and information warfare.

In the first months, the establishment of the centre’s structure will be the main focus. It will be headed by a director and working committees.

Cloete said ultimately “the CSIR and NDUM want to establish and grow a capability in the design and development of advanced defence sub-systems and systems and undertake challenging projects; deliver results and outcomes that have impact on the stakeholders in both countries; and show utility for users.”

South Africa and Malaysia have been cooperating in other fields. In February, Denel Aerostructures (DAe) and Strand Aerospace Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding human capital development and new markets.

The agreement is one of three entered into by various Malaysian entities with South African companies in terms of offset agreements for the R3.5 billion contract for integrated weapon systems that will be fitted to Malaysian armoured infantry fighting vehicles.

The DAe/Strand MOU was one of three signed, with five more in the pipeline as part of the overall offset programme for Denel turrets.

Other identified offsets where MOUs still have to be finalised include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), laser additive manufacturing and the automotive industry.