Tech attracts attention at DSEi

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The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) show held in London this week is one of the world’s largest defence exhibitions and all about latest kit. So what stood out in this new age of austerity, the need for less costly and improved communications and reconnaissance solutions, and for means of controlling riots without paying a high price in lives?

The Special Forces “Weapon of Choice”

If there was an assault rifle that sparked strong interest this week at the London show, it was the model used to kill Osama bin Laden.

Made by German arms manufacturer Heckler and Koch, the HK416 10″ was well known before the shooting of Osama bin Laden. However, its use by the US Navy special forces unit, Seal Team Six, to kill Bin Laden, meant that the Heckler and Koch stand at the show saw a heavy flow of visitors, even though the weapon has been in service since 2004.

Various versions of the HK416 are in use by special forces around the world, but the model with a 10 inch barrel is widely used for battle in confined spaces.

Behind the weapon’s high reliability is a re-designed piston operating system to cycle the weapon for shooting. This ensures reliability in the most demanding conditions, including an ability to consistently fire after being in seawater.

The weapon shoots NATO standard round ammunition of 5.56mm. It has an adjustable buttstock, a foregrip for greater stability, and a 30 round magazine. It is supplied with out sights, but the one on display at the show had a reactive sighting system allowing quick and accurate aiming by placing a red dot projected in the sights on the target.

The HK416 is used by a large number of forces around the world, but the only country that uses the improved Colt M4 carbine as its standard issue weapon is the Norwegian army, which uses the version with the 16″ barrel.

New Less Lethal Ammunition
On going revolutions across the Arab world, riots on European streets, and new public order crises in the age of austerity mean that the forces of law and order are looking to new means of control that will not risk public and international opprobrium. Only the most repressive regimes can take lives with impunity, and the others are having to look to less lethal means for fear of enraging public opinion.

A Johannesburg-based company, Less Lethal Africa, is now offering rubber rounds for assault rifles as well as shotgun cartridges for crowd control. Both these products could give armed forces around the world few excuses for the use of conventional ammunition in crowd control. The company says the rubber bullet rounds for assault rifles are the first ever produced.

A steady stream of potential buyers from government in the Middle East and law and order officials from countries and officials with frequent riots headed to the company’s stand at the London defence show this week.

As with all less lethal ammunition, this offering also comes with a warning. When used at less than 20m and aimed above the legs, the risk of fatalities and serious injury rises sharply. Less Lethal Africa was founded by Canadian inventor, entrepreneur, and security expert Donald Rickard three years ago and is over the past year has been placing its products on the market.

The 12 gauge shot gun cartridges are made from a transparent special plastic and contain either double rubber balls that are softer than widely used rubber bullets or a bullet containing pepper. The special transparent plastic casing means that no excuses can be made for the mistaken use of conventional ammunition. And as there is no brass used in the shotgun shell, the round is non-corrosive and will last longer. While the rubber balls can still inflict substantial harm, they are softer than those currently used and do not bounce. A bouncing rubber bullet round poses the risk of eye and head injury should the rounds hit the ground.

Rickard reports strong interest from the South African National Defence Force in the 12 gauge shot gun cartridges. He has already sold rubber bullet shot gun rounds to a number of countries in the region. Rickard says rubber bullets for assault rifles are a first. The company has designed rounds for the AK-47 as well as for rifles that take Nato standard 5.56mm ammunition. Rubber bullet rounds for 9mm pistols and for naval guns that can be used in anti-piracy operations are under development.
The UAV that helped the Libyan Rebels

The Datron Scout, a micro unmanned aerial system, shot to world attention with its recent use by the Libyan rebels in their march on Tripoli.

A video made by the rebels with a camera mounted on the Scout Aerial Reconnaissance System showing a Libyan government artillery battery firing was uploaded to You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQ3hEt0EOkc) and has had over a half million hits in less than a month. The Scout was transferred to the rebels by the Canadian government.

Marketed by US defence company, Datron, the Scout was designed by Canadian UAS developer Aeryon Labs. The Scout is a small, rugged, lightweight Micro Aerial Vehicle that can capture and transmit high quality video. It is easy to use with operation by means of a touch screen tablet. Training, in the case of the rebels, took about one and a half days. The vehicle snaps together without tools and can be carried by an individual with reasonable ease. The vehicle has a range of about 3km, and endurance of up to 20 minutes.

It has passed a number of trials and has been used by the United Nations and a number of law enforcement agencies.
SA desgined Tactical Data Terminal – the military messaging system.
Giving the soldier in the field the ability to send and receive encrypted emails, SMSs, photographs, and other data through an existing radio network could spread smartphone technology around the battlefield.

That’s the aim of Pretoria based RadidM with its new RapTawc RT5 Tactical Data Terminal.

One big sell of the terminal is that it can link up to radios that a defence force cannot afford to replace, but to which it needs to add capability. This terminal would add encrypted data transfer to the capabilities of exsisting radio networks or a cell phone network. The RapidM field hardened data terminal is hand sized, has a QWERTY board, a backlit screen, and a GPS.

RapidM has arrangements with a number of military radio manufacturers to put their branding on the terminal. It was not built to meet a requirement, but the company’s founder and CEO, Stephan Isebeck sees it meeting a need to bring network centric benefits to the squad level.