UK defence companies seeking partnerships in South Africa


United Kingdom defence and security companies are keen to do business in South Africa and are seeking local partnerships.

This was the general consensus of the UK Trade and Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) Security Trade Mission to South Africa between 16 and 20 May. Nearly 20 UK companies took part in the trade mission at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria.

The UKTI DSO helps UK-based defence, security and cyber companies succeed in the global economy by working with industry, the UK Government and overseas governments to ensure UK equipment, products and services meet overseas customers’ requirements. DSO uses serving military officers, former police and law enforcement officers and members of industry to support to UK industry and overseas customers.

Richard Freeman, Senior Police and Security Advisor with the UKTI DSO, said the exhibition is focussed on security and aims to forge partnerships in this regard in South Africa. “The key message is we want to share our experience in combating terrorism,” he said, adding that national security in South Africa benefits the rest of the world as well – if South Africa’s borders are secure, other nations’ will be too.

Freeman said the first day of the trade mission was good with government representatives visiting the event. On 19 May the UK companies were due to see Paramount and on 20 May had a chance to meet with local companies to discuss collaborations.

Stuart Armstrong: AD Africa and India at UK TI DSO, said that the focus is on small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and trying to establish what is of interest to South Africa so they can respond appropriately. The UKTI DSO will have a stand at Africa Aerospace and Defence in September and some UK companies will be exhibiting there.

It is believed that this was the first trade mission of its kind to visit South Africa. “The UK defence and security Industry looks at South Africa as a key partner in the region and we hope this trade mission will increase future collaborations,” UKTI DSO said.

A wide variety of technologies and capabilities were on display at the exhibition, with a focus on security and surveillance, for instance, Observant Innovations was showcasing its Patrol camera giving the ability to capture 360 degree panoramic video imagery. The company has partnered with several countries around the world and is looking for a South Africa partner as it is not covered in southern Africa. Police and emergency services are its main target market.

Revision Military exhibited some of its body armour and extended battery packs. Richard Waldrom: Business Development at Revision, told defenceWeb that his company has done work in Botswana and hopes to build a base in South Africa and is seeking partners locally. Much of the equipment delivered to the Botswana Defence Force is used for counter-poaching.

Vocality International manufactures multiplexers, routers and secure voice equipment for use in the satellite communications market. One of its key products is able to aggregate radio traffic and relay different signals across different mediums, such as satellite, GSM, radio etc. The South African National Defence Force is an existing customer of the company. Nestor Mendy: Business Development Director at Vocality, told defenceWeb that the company is pursuing other customers in Africa, both military and commercial.

Ultra Electronics is a group of companies providing a wide array of communications, cryptographic and secure payment services as well as stabilised platforms, cameras and marine communications. Its command and control systems were showcased during the trade mission event.

Inmarsat designs and operates satellite communications networks and supplies secure communications to global government defence and security forces. Gordon McMillan, Head of Market Development – Africa, told defenceWeb that Inmarsat supports the South African National Defence Force, particularly the Navy through the provision of satellite data. He said there is a lot of potential in Africa and the company is in a growth phase, targeting countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. In addition to individual countries, Inmarsat is also targeting entities like African Union missions.

Strongfield Technologies deals in aerospace, defence and security sectors and for South Africa is offering military generators, Milfoam gun barrel cleaning solutions, Lifesaver portable nano filtration solutions and anti-UAV defences. The Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) is billed as the first integrated counter UAV system, bringing together a Blighter radar, Chess Dynamics control system and radio frequency jammer to disrupt UAV. The system is already in use in the UK and is being trialled in places like the United States and France.

The Lifesaver water filtration system uses nanomaterials to remove viruses and bacteria from water by simply pumping it through a nanofilter – germs are too big to fit through the filter. Lifesaver is available in water bottle and jerry can containers as well as water tanks containing several thousand litres. The jerry can, for instance, can filter 20 000 litres of water through its filter. Strongfield is targeting South Africa’s Special Forces for the device.

Analysed Images supplies X-ray security screening systems, software and services and specialises in point of entry threat scanning and containment. Its portfolio includes body scanners, cabinet X-ray systems, vehicle scanners, cargo scanners etc. The company also does weapon management using RFID tagging linked to access control systems. The company has supplied body scanners for correctional services and casinos in South Africa through local company IDT (Inspection Detection Technologies). The company is also offering forensic pathology body scanners to the South African National Defence Force.
3D Laser Mapping has been working in the field of laser mapping since 1999 and was showcasing its Robin laser radar mapping tool at the exhibition. This will be officially launched in the UK this week. It is a wearable laser radar that can also be mounted on UAVs. It has a range of several hundred metres to several kilometres and can be used for civil engineering as well as military reconnaissance purposes. It creates a highly detailed photo-quality laser map of its environment.

OptaSense specialises in acoustic sensing using fibre optic cables to detect noise around critical assets. It focuses on oilfields, the transport industry, borders, critical sites and pipelines. More than 25 000 km of assets are monitored in over 50 countries. It provides uninterrupted perimeter protection by transforming a standard telecommunications optical fibre into a virtual sensor capable of detecting multiple threats simultaneously along the entire perimeter and surrounding area. Using advanced algorithms, the system can identify, locate and track various activities, such as people, vehicle movement, low flying aircraft, digging and gunfire. It can also be used for pipeline and cable monitoring, oil well surveillance and traffic flow/incident detection on road and rail.

Magnus McEwen-King, Executive Director of OptaSense, told defenceWeb that the company’s technology is extensively deployed in Africa, for instance 800 km of pipeline is protected in Nigeria while oil and gas facilities in Angola are monitored with OptaSense technology. The company has also done work in North Africa. McEwan-King hopes OptaSense will do more business in South Africa protecting things like pipelines, borders etc.

Other companies at the trade mission exhibition included Tek Military Seating, which makes suspended seating for armoured vehicles as well as commercial vehicles. Penman Group produces armoured vehicles for public order protection, cash in transit vehicles etc. as well as de-mining equipment, protected plant equipment, armoured SUVs, bomb disposal vehicles and other specialised vehicles.

Tablet Technologies produces tough and durable mobile devices; BAE Systems Applied Intelligence provides cyber security and big data crunching capabilities, with an emphasis on cyber security and financial crime and fraud; De La Rue prints bank notes and passports; Kelvin Hughes specialises in security and surveillance detection (radars, cameras etc.); Fortinus offers its border management and immigration expertise and advice; Indigo Vision provides video security systems; and Boxarr provides integrated systems management solutions.