Technical milestone for Denel Overberg Test Range


The Denel Overberg Test Range (OTR) reached a major technical milestone when an important renewal project – the replacement of the tracking radar main system computer (TRMSC) – was accepted for implementation after more than a decade of development.

Denel OTR boasts an extensive array of optical, telemetry, radar, communication and meteorological instruments catering for a wide spectrum of aircraft and missile flight testing.
“After more than a decade of development and overcoming various challenges, the project has yielded a tracking radar computer built from contemporary computer hardware that is universal and easy to maintain; software that can be modified and compiled on modern operating systems, and a wealth of knowledge that can sustain the life of the radar into the future,” said Denel OTR chief executive, Abrie van der Walt.

During the late 1990’s the Test Range started technology renewal projects intended to timeously adapt and upgrade these instruments to satisfy the test requirements of Test Range clients and keep up with technological advances. Denel OTR’s tracking radar (TR) is a high precision radar that can detect and track a target autonomously.

The Test Range has three TRs and they are vital to the core capabilities of the Range as they provide the Test Range’s primary real-time tracking data. Over time the original TR main system computer, dating back to the eighties, became difficult to maintain; spare parts were scarce and several components obsolete. During 2000 this prompted the Test Range to start a technology renewal project to replace the TRMSC.
“The project was considered too high risk to do everything at once and it was broken into smaller, measurable phases. It was also important to have the new TRMSC to replicate and/or emulate existing radar interfaces and timing loops (pedestal, transmission, etc.). Part of the project involved developing drivers for PC peripheral cards for a military spec 1553 communications bus and a bespoke high speed data bus. These drivers were written in an RT Linux environment to meet stringent timing requirements. These were just a few of the technical challenges that had to be overcome to complete the project,” Van der Walt said.

In March 2012 the Test Range conducted its first set of acceptance tests, using a balloon as an empirical target. The findings of these tests were used as the basis for the final changes and modifications to the software. A second, more comprehensive, set of acceptance tests were then conducted in March 2013. This included the tracking of empirical, static and dynamic targets, calibration routines and the verification of the radar software functionalities.

A full set of documentation addressing the technical (hardware and software descriptions, user manuals, etc.) and operational (ISO9001 work instructions, etc.) aspects of the TRMSC project was also provided. The Engineering Change Board of the Test Range then vetted the test results and documentation and was satisfied to close the project.
“This collaboration is testimony to the high level of skill and knowledge at the Test Range. This is one of the achievements that provide us with the necessary impetus and confidence to continue building capacity and implementing new technologies to satisfy client requirements,” he said.