Tactical intelligence goes hi-tech 


In an effort to advance military intelligence, the SA army has embarked on Project Cytoon.The SA army is looking at re-equipping its tactical intelligence regiment
with better battlefield surveillance technology.

The programme, called Project Cytoon, will see the Intelligence Corps adopt an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), portable ground surveillance radar and a latest-generation thermal imager.

The tactical intelligence UAV will conduct aerial surveillance and reconnaissance and was developed by Advanced Technology & Engineering (ATE).

“The usage of such a system gives you the opportunity of doing surveillance and reconnaissance without being on the ground, without risking troops on landmines, without having to penetrate the bush,” ATE director Lorris Duncker says.

This would be especially valuable to the South African National Defence Force peacekeepers in central Africa where large land areas have to be patrolled either quickly or persistently, and roads often do not exist, he said. The advantage of UAVs over aircraft or helicopters in this role lie in their lower operating costs, the fact that a pilot is not needed, and the ability of crews to change shifts while the drone is flying, thereby eliminating operator fatigue, he says.

Moving ground targets

Battlefield surveillance radars are used to detect and classify moving ground targets, typically up to 20km to 30km. Additionally, they assist artillery and mortar units by giving feedback on shell impacts. Besides battlefield use, these radars can also be deployed in peacetime to safeguard high-value area assets such as oilfields, power stations and grids, as well as other important potential targets for terrorist or criminal acts.

Battlefield surveillance radars also assist in counter-drug operations and monitoring illegal border crossings. As an example, the Thales Squire man-portable system, which is in the running for Cytoon, can plot a pedestrian at 10km, a vehicle at 21km, a tank at 28km, a helicopter at 21km, a boat at 12km and a ship at 48km, Thales claims. Because it uses a frequency modulated continuous wave Doppler radar, the Squire is also virtually undetectable to hostile electronic warfare experts, it says.

Thermal imagers detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Since most objects emit such radiation, thermal imagers allow their users to “see” their surroundings with or without visible light. The warmer the object, the brighter the object appears in the imager. Humans, with an internal body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius tend to stand out against their surroundings, which are mostly cooler.

This also allows thermal imagers to spot camouflaged targets. Many modern thermal imagers include an eye-safe laser rangefinder and pointer, a compass, GPS and digital camera. One model on offer for Cytoon, the Thales Sophie, can spot humans at over 4km, tanks at 10km, helicopters at 12km and jet fighters at 16km, Thales says.

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