The first phase of the long-running ground-based air-defence system (GBADS) project is one step closer to completion with the successful conclusion of the Phase 1 Level 5 System Factory Acceptance Test (FAT).
Denel Integrated Systems Solutions (DISS), the prime contractor, said in a statement today the tests were conducted at Mobile Deployment Wing and Swartkop Airfield over a four week period with support from both the South African Air Force and the Army. The tests were completed July 21.
DISS CE Ralph Mills noted “this was a fantastic achievement and I am immensely proud of what has been accomplished”. Soldiers from the Air Defence Artillery (ADA) Formation manned the system and assisted greatly in the achievement of the milestone. Despite the adverse weather conditions, the test ran like clockwork with only minor observations on system performance, Mills adds.
The equipment is currently being prepared for the final training of the crews in Kimberley and then on to the Operation Test & Evaluation (OT&E) at Combat Training Centre in Lohatla from next month after which the system will be delivered into service. “This programme is a prime example of industry collaboration and the FAT was well supported by both Saab Systems South Africa and Reutech Radar Systems” added Armscor Programme Manager Hanlo Pretorius. “I’d also like to thank the team at DISS for their continued loyalty to the company and both Denel Corporate and the Denel Board for supporting the completion of the programme” concluded Mills.
SA ordered two 20km-range Thales Page continuous-wave (CW) low-observable battery air defence local warning radars, eight Lightweight Multiple Launchers (LML) as well as about 100 VSHORAD (very short range air defence) high-velocity missiles in December 2002. The entire system can be parachute dropped. Denel credits the VSHORAD missiles with a range of 5km (Thales says 7km). At the time (2002) state arms acquisition agency Armscor in a statement said the cost was R796 700 389 and deliveries would be complete in 36 months. It was reported in October 2007 that Starstreak missiles cost about R1 million each and that GBADS Phase I, also known as Project Guardian, had by then cost R801 million. defenceWeb has not been able to verify the figure. Since then a further R62 684 877.76 has been spent according to the Armscor Bulletin System.
104 Battery of 10 ADA Regiment fired an undisclosed number of Starstreak at a firing camp at the Overberg Test Range near Cape Town last year November to allow its operators to develop experience in firing live missiles. The missiles were fired against the indigenously manufactured BAE Systems Land Systems Dynamics Locats (low-cost aerial target system) aerial targets. Thales Defence Systems, which supported the exercise, says in a media statement the ADA “took the opportunity to conduct day and night firings, introducing their new Starstreak thermal imager to provide a full 24-hour air defence capability.
“The success of the camp, underlined by an unprecedented number of target kills, is even more impressive given that the Locats targets destroyed were totally un-enhanced, proving Starstreak’s capability against unmanned air vehicle targets,” the statement added. Locats has a maximum speed of 310 km/hr, a wingspan of 3.2m and length of 2.9m.
Speaking from the range Lt Col Jacques Baird, Chief of Staff of the ADA, said: “I am delighted with the performance of the Starstreak system and of course our operators. Indeed, at one stage I thought that we would run out of targets before the end of our camp.” ADA Formation General Officer Commanding Brigadier General Jabu Mbuli added that if “this camp has proved anything it is that Starstreak can defeat a wide variety of air targets, both the traditional and the emerging small low-infrared signature threats. We spent quite some time evaluating various missile systems as our GBAD solution and what we have witnessed at this exercise clearly demonstrates that we made the right choice.”
Starstreak was designed to counter low-flying high-performance aircraft and helicopters. It employs semi-automatic command line of sight guidance consisting of a stabilised tracking system and an automatic guidance system. While the operator tracks the target using the stabilised tracking system, a laser beam for missile guidance is transmitted along the target sight line. The system compensates for crosswinds and low-level targets and a lead-angle is automatically generated to launch the missile ahead of crossing targets.
In its simplest form, Starburst is a man-portable, shoulder-launched system consisting of an aiming unit and a missile. The missile is contained in a canister that acts as a recoilless launcher when firing takes place. The aiming unit is clipped on to the canister and together they provide the firing and guidance control for the missile. At the end of the engagement, the aiming unit is quickly detached, the used canister discarded and a new canister fitted for the next engagement. The system can be operated by a single person. However, a second person reduces reaction time.
Armscor in March 2007 told Parliament that when finally delivered at the end of November 2009, the project would be 54 months over deadline. Armscor told MPs the project was extensively delayed by problems with subcontracts with local suppliers, by challenges in translating systems specifications and by design shortcomings affecting the thermal imager, radar power supply and radio interface module. As a result, Denel was to pay a R80 million penalty.
Noteworthy is that the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms records SA imported 96 Starstreak missiles in 2005. There are no previous or subsequent references to the Northern Irish-made VSHORAD.
In May 2008 Denel Dynamics CE Jan Wessels said about 30 companies were involved with the project. “The missile and radar are European and the software was written by five companies, some in SA,” says Wessels. “Our job [as prime contractor and systems integrator] is to put it all together to make it work.” Wessels added the delays and problems encountered have made the project one “where you have to grind your teeth”. “There are 32 entities that must deliver. We’ll just have to take the pain until they all do so satisfactorily. Although there is a lot of contractual baggage, we are quite chuffed about progress with the programme.”
Denel Integrates Systems Solutions executive manager Ralph Mills added the first live SA firings of the Starstreak missile in October 2007 “went very well”.
Supply of Starstreak missiles
EBEB/2009/459 10 Mar 2010 R34 216 705,88 Thales Air Defence Limited
Industry support for the local warning segment of the Ground Based Air Defence Systems for the operational test and evaluation and products system commisionning phase – extension of EBEB/2001/421
BEB/S2010/2388 29 Jul 2010 R349 202,48 Denel t/a Denel Dynamics
BEB/S2009/2321 29 Oct 2009 R4 970 000,00 Denel t/a Denel Aerospace Systems
BEB/S2009/2317 29 Oct 2009 R4 945 391,16 Denel t/a Denel Dynamics
BEB/S2009/2307 3 Sep 2009 R4 942 400,64 Denel t/a Denel Dynamics
BEB/S2009/2300 6 Aug 2009 R1 113 636,00 Denel t/a Denel Aerospace Systems
BEB/S2008/2220 2 Oct 2008 R1 035 496,02 Denel t/a Denel Aerospace Systems
BEB/S2008/2213 4 Sep 2008 R533 520,00 Denel t/a Denel Aerospace Systems
BEB/S20082192 12 Jun 2008 R96 672,88 Denel t/a Denel Aerospace Systems
BEB/S2007/2140 1 Nov 2007 R1 828 530,70 Denel t/a Denel Aerospace Systems
Evaluation of new generation digital radios performance as Air Defence Control network provider for the mobile Air Defence System
EBEB/2008/218 26 Mar 2009 R8 482 410,00 Denel t/a Denel Aerospace Group
Staff support for local warning segment – extension of EBEB/2003/461
BEB/S2007/2118 16 Aug 2007 R170 912,00 Armscor Defence Institutes (Pty) Ltd
t/a Defence Decision Support Institute