Thales positive about SANDF projects


Thales is expecting to benefit from extensive South African National Defence Force (SANDF) contracts, and hopes to supply vessel combat management suites and radars for Projects Biro and Chutney.

Justice Tootla, CEO of Thales South Africa Systems, told defenceWeb that his company is hopeful regarding Biro, which calls for three offshore and three inshore patrol vessels for the South African Navy. Thales would offers its services as a systems integrator to shipyards and provide the combat management systems, as it did with the SA Navy’s four Meko frigates.

As it has a strong combat management systems background, Thales South Africa is currently doing integration work on the French Navy FREMM frigates, and provided equipment for the FREMM that was delivered to Egypt last year. This involves providing bridge equipment for these vessels.

Tootla said that although SANDF spending has been “very subdued” due to the limited defence budget, the 2014 Defence Review could see more participation from Thales. At the moment Thales South Africa has support contracts in place with the SANDF as it has done work on the Meko frigates, provided surveillance and communications equipment (Squire radars and Sophie thermal imagers amongst other items) to the Army under Project Cytoon, and supplied artillery fire control systems to the Army under Project Klooster.

Tootla said he was also hopeful that the Air Force’s Project Chutney, to replace its ground based radars, would move forward and was optimistic of project requirements being released this year. Thales would offer the Ground Master 400 radar, with a range of 560 kilometres, as its top of the line product, but would also offer items like its medium range Ground Master 200, depending on the specifications.

Another SANDF project that Thales has its eye on is Sepula for new armoured personnel carriers for the Army, replacing some Mambas and Casspirs, but Tootla said it was unlikely this will be happening very soon. At the moment the SA Army is refurbishing its vehicle fleet in lieu of replacing it with new equipment.

On the defence side, Tootla said Thales South Africa Systems has increased its exports into the Middle East, after focussing on this area several years ago. He said there is a strong export pipeline in the Middle East, with a number of recent orders. Most exports are on the landward side, for equipment like the company’s AS4000 artillery fire control system, which was also used for Project Klooster. Defence sales in Africa have been quieter, although Thales is heavily marketing its Scorpion automated mortar system. The company is also pushing partnerships with African countries.

Thales South Africa has been active on the commercial side and recently signed a large contract with South Africa’s Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) company to provide radars and other air traffic management (ATM) equipment. Tootla said this is a two to three year project. The company’s relationship with ATNS goes back more than 30 years, as it has supplied various air traffic management systems that have been progressively upgraded as technology and regulations change. For instance, ATNS awarded Thales a contract in 2013 for its TopSky ATM system.

Under the contract announced earlier this month, Thales will supply Wide Area Multilateration (WAM), Star NG (Next Generation) primary radars and RSM 970 secondary radars to ATNS. The WAM system will be deployed to provide surveillance over the entire Northern region of South Africa. Radars will be deployed to Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town, Durban and Blesberg in KwaZulu-Natal. These surveillance systems will be integrated into ATNS’s existing Thales TopSky Air Traffic Management System. Distance measuring equipment (DME) systems will be deployed to 31 sites across South Africa where they will ensure high accuracy en-route and terminal aircraft guidance.

Thales was awarded a contract by construction company Basil Read to supply an instrument landing system (ILS), DME equipment and a Doppler VHF Omni-directional Radio Range system (DVOR) for the new airport at St Helena, which should be opened around May this year. This was a collaboration between Thales UK and Thales South Africa.

Thales has also provided air traffic management equipment to countries like Namibia, Mauritius and Kenya. Egypt this month awarded the company’s regional division a contract to replace and renew its air traffic management systems at Hurghada and Taba International Airports, with the French division supplying TopSky -ATC, TopSky – Tower, primary and secondary radars, and communication systems.

Tootla told defenceWeb that Thales had recently branched out into security and transport, and is active in the rail sector. The company provided the ticketing system for the Gautrain, and is upgrading it so that passengers can use their credit cards to pay for rides in addition to Gautrain Gold Cards. The South African division is also working on train signalling systems for 42 stations in the Western Cape. This R1.8 billion five year contract has been underway for the last two years for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).