Atlas Elektronik and Thales African defence Systems (ADS) are likely to compete for a multi-billion rand contract to fit the South African Navy’s future multipurpose patrol vessel (MMPV) a combat management system (CMS).
Ship costs are typically the sum of the cost of the hull and superstructure, the electronics and the armament fitted, with the first now typically just amounting to a quarter to half the final price.
Depending on the number of “effectors” (weapons) and sensors (radars, optronics, etcetera), the cost of a patrol vessel CMS can range from a low of €5 million to a high of €20 million.
Both companies already boast a CMS in SAN service. The Thales Tavitac serves as the brain of the Navy`s Valour-class frigates, while the Atlas ISUS90 TCS is fitted in the Heroine-class diesel-electric submarine.
The SAN has a stated requirement for three offshore MMPVs of about 90m and three inshore vessels of about 50m.
The Navy`s chief director maritime strategy Rear Admiral Bernard Teuteberg has over the last six months repeatedly said the six ships will be built in SA to an international design. “They must be cheap to build and operate and will be used to patrol and control the seas around Africa.”
Previous reports have indicated an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) costs some R400 million and an inshore patrol vessel (IPV) about R250 million, depending on electronics and weapons fit.
Indications are the ships will – initially – at least – have a basic weapons fit consisting of cannon, including 20mm and 76mm quick-firing guns taken from to-be-scrapped Warrior-class OPVs and River-class IPVs.
Missiles and antisubmarine systems will not (initially) be fitted. The ships will, however, have space for a modular, container-based minehunting and diving support system, which will be carried as required.
Although there is no certainty regarding the final weapons and sensor fit the CMS must cater for, both Thales ADS and Atlas Elektronik have some ideas regarding cheap-to-acquire, cheap-to-operate information technology (IT).
Thales is currently putting the final touches on a new hybrid SA-European CMS for the Navy MMPV programme, Project Biro.
Thales ADS C2 senior programme manager Allan Hall says the choice must be a compact system. Its solution, which debuted at Euronavale in France late last year and had its first African showing at the 3rd Sea Power for Africa symposium earlier this month, combines aspects of the Thales Henelo (Netherlands) Tacticos system “and a lot of local development.”
In its most basic form the system consists of a single console carrying surveillance radar data. “The operator would through this console be interfaced directly with the radar and be able to build up a tactical picture for the command team.
“A sister compact fire control system interfaces with a tracker and one or two guns.”
Hallsays the system is specifically aimed at the small vessel market.
Gunter Möhl, Atlas Elektronik`s director sales vessel systems says his firm will offer the SAN a compact version of the advanced naval CMS fitted to the F125 Sachsen-class frigate of the Deutsche Marine. He says the compact system is already aboard ships of the Finnish Navy.
“So this is a system with modern IT, and there is no problem to scale it up or down to the size of the vessel and integrate all the sensors and effectors, that`s to say weapons you want to install on those ships.
He the system can also be fitted to the Navy`s mooted Strategic Support Ship (Project Millennium), although in a more distributed format as the amphibious warfare ship would have several command centres: there`s the ship`s combat information centre, the air component command centre, the ground forces afloat command post and a joint command centre.