South African electronic warfare technology has, and continues to make its mark in the international military arena, with home-grown self-protection systems being used by numerous defence forces around the world.
A wide range of defence forces – including India, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Oman, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Peru, and Greece – are using indigenous South African electronic warfare technology. Approximately 95% of the systems manufactured in South Africa are sold to export markets, making it a valuable source of revenue for South Africa. Job creation in engineering and production are additional advantages, according to Saab Grintek Defence.
90% of these systems are designed and produced at Saab Grintek Defence’s facilities in South Africa, the company said. As a result, the company was recently awarded the Best Export Company in South Africa title by the Department of Trade and Industry.
“There is this assumption that Africa is not strong when it comes to technology and innovation, but this turns that view on its face,” said Chris Skinner, head of marketing and sales at Saab Grintek Defence.
He cited Saab’s Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS) as an example. This provides missile, radar and laser warning and delivers appropriate countermeasures when fired upon, all the while keeping track of every type of signal out there. It has been designed for both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Saab also produces protection systems for both land and naval applications.
Skinner said that Saab South Africa’s contract with the Indian air force, one of its biggest customers to date, with a current order value in excess of R400 million, is the perfect illustration of long-term use of South African products and technology as this platform will remain in production for many years to come.
“India developed a local helicopter, the [Dhruv] ALH or advanced light helicopter, with Saab selected as the default self-protection system for its air force and army. We’re now working with them on several levels: the provision of the original systems, training and technology transfer to allow the Indian industry to initially handle the in-country support, and eventually almost full local production of our systems,” he explained.
Apart from air force customers, Saab is also supplying original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Agusta Westland and Eurocopter, with self-protection systems as well as avionic equipment including Health and Usage Monitoring, Mission Recorders and Communications Controllers, for inclusion into packages for its end customers.
“With IDAS, a locally developed and manufactured product, airborne platforms can radically improve defensive and operational capabilities, which in itself is gratifying, but add the significant source of export revenue and it becomes something of which we are extremely proud,” comments Magnus Lewis-Olssen, Saab South Africa’s CEO.