SF buys Chaka

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The South African Special Forces (SF) has purchased the SAAB Systems Grintek “Chaka” brigade-and-below command-and-control system. The order, announced yesterday, worth R2 061 321.50, is for the supply, installation, configuration, testing and training of Chaka and related components to the Special Forces. It is not clear when the system will be delivered.

The South African Army will early next year separately take delivery of its variant of the Chaka system, ordered in July 2008 at a estimated cumulative cost of R72 million. The Army order was for equipment sufficient for three simultaneous peacekeeping operations and one training exercise. It is not clear what the Special Forces have purchased. The system architecture the Army sought consisted of nine static C2 systems to support the brigade staff, 40 mobile C2 systems to support battalion and company commanders, and 48 “Impi” location sensors to track “blue force” units of all sizes. These are now being installed in selected Ratel, Casspir and LandRover command vehicles, with the latter on display at African Aerospace & Defence 2010 in Cape Town in September.

Bidders for the programme, Project Legend, had to fulfil a range of requirements, including a commitment to “having a local support and enhancement capability within SA that can maintain/upgrade the full software suite for at least 10 years after commissioning”. The tender documents also require that the “source code of the system shall reside in SA for Department of Defence use”.

The Engineering News reported in August 2008 that Legend “was initiated in the period 2001/2002” but the Request for Proposals was only sent out to industry in December 2006. SAAB reportedly had 18 months after July 2008 in which to deliver its system to Armscor.

Chaka was developed on the back of years experience with a brigade-level wargaming solution called BattleTek. “Wargaming and C2 are actually two sides of the same coin – ‘train as you fight, fight as you train’,” SAAB Systems SA systems engineer Johan Maritz told Engineering News. “We are the only company in South Africa, and one of the few in the world, with this continuum between simulation and C2 systems.” Other than SAAB, quotations had been requested from Fulcrum Information Technologies, EADS SA, Denel, African Defence Systems, CyberSim, FIMM Works, Elmer Communications Systems and Unified Data. CyberSim won and was later acquired by SAAB.

SAAB SA CEO Riaz Salojee in 2007 told defenceWeb the contract was “hotly contested” as “whoever wins has business for the next 30 to 40 years”. The company says Chaka will enables a brigade commander and his staff to enjoy situational awareness unequal to that available up to now, plan operations and electronically send the resulting operational orders to subordinate commanders and control the execution of their plans.

SAAB Systems SA MD Willie Bothma said in August 2008 the deal represented a major leap forward in the utilisation of information technology to improve the operational effectiveness of the SA Army, the SA National Defence Force and its Joint Operations Division that exercises C2 over all deployed forces. “Planning time will be reduced drastically and orders can now be sent instantaneously in near real-time”, said Bothma.

Bothma added that Chaka expanded on the C2 system supplied to the Air Defence Artillery for the Ground Based Air Defence System. “It is of special significance that the Chaka can also integrate with the conflict simulation system supplied by SAAB Systems SA to the SANDF Centre for Conflict Simulation (CONSIM) [in 2007]. This will enable the SANDF to ‘train as you fight and fight as you train’,” he added.
“The fact that the system is truly South African guarantees continuous, cost-effective support of the system, as well as the possibility of developing any additions to the system, according to evolving needs. This puts the SANDF in full control of their system,” Bothma further said.

Saab Systems SA previously also developed and built the heart of SA Air Force’s Air Picture Display System (APDS), which is that service’s air mission C2 system. “With this new contract SAAB Systems SA adds the landward command and control domain to the existing air command and control domain in one business entity,” noted Bothma. “The advantage to the SANDF is that the expertise gained in the air environment is also available for the landward Command and Control domain. Furthermore, Saab Systems SA has already integrated elements of both systems to move towards the achievement of a more integrated joint command and control system for the SANDF.”

Reports at AAD indicate a pre-production Chaka system, integrated with the SAAF APDS and the National Joint Operations Centre, provided C2 to Operation Kgwele that safeguarded the soccer World Cup.



Pic: An officer using a laptop. Part of the brigade-level mobile system as fitted to a 43 Brigade command Ratel.