Air Defence Artillery officially receives Thutlwa battery fire control posts


The South African Army’s Air Defence Artillery (ADA) School in Kimberly has officially received three ESR 220 Thutlwa radar battery fire control posts from Reutech Radar Systems.

The three battery fire control posts (BFCPs) were officially handed over from the Department of Defence Acquisition environment to the ADA Formation User environment on 10 July. Carl Kies, CEO of Reutech Radar Systems ceremonially handed over the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs to Henry Green, Armscor Command and Control Divisional Head. The final ceremonial handover was done by Brigadier General DA Skosana, SA Army Director Product Systems Management to Brigadier General SG Hlongwa, General Officer Commanding ADA Formation.

Reutech in a statement released this week said the handing over heralds a significant milestone in the life of the ESR 220 system as all four BFCP are now commissioned and in the hands of the ADA Formation.

The ESR 220 is a mobile, solid-state L-band 2D surveillance radar designed to provide early warning to air defence artillery troops in the field. As a fully-autonomous armoured system with self-contained power plant packaged on the Spanish-designed Kynos Aljaba 8×8 carrier vehicle, it is capable of being operational within 10 minutes of arrival at a deployment site.

The system also provides for a combined air picture derived from primary radar and IFF (identification, friend or foe), as well as a command and control system for effective air defence control. It is said to be able to track up to 100 targets simultaneously to a range of 120 kilometres. The mast is 12 metres tall. The system provides local warning, command and fire control to the ADA’s 30 GDF 05 L90 twin 35 mm towed cannon.

Four of the systems, initially known as the Kameelperd, were ordered in 1996 under Project Bioskoop and delivered by 2006. Reutech said there has been a programme of continuous improvement and incremental upgrading on the Kameelperd system. With the establishment of the Ground Based Air Defence System (GBADS) for the SANDF one BFCP was upgraded to the GBADS Local Warning Troop Battery Fire Control Post baseline and in 2007 became known as the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP (Thutlwa is the Tswana word for a giraffe). All four ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs were recently upgraded to the latest Local Warning Segment baseline.

The ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs have been extensively used for training, ADA Formation exercises, operational deployments and the funeral of the late President Mandela. The ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP systems played a major strategic role in two operational deployments. During the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup the SANDF was given the responsibility to secure the airspace around the World Cup stadiums. ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs were deployed around the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadia. These systems provided coverage against low-flying objects that could be difficult to detect. The real-time information provided by the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs supported effective decision-making by the Joint Operation Centres.

During South Sudan’s independence in 2011 the South African government deployed a military contingent to Juba and this heralded the first deployment of the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP beyond the borders of the South Africa. The ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP was deployed at Juba airport to support the SA Air Force in providing radar coverage of the airfield for airspace control functionality. On the same day of its arrival at Juba the ESR 220 system was declared operational with an air picture provided via the Air Picture Display System to the SA Air Force air traffic controllers.