Denel Dynamics has been awarded a further about R350 000 contract to support Project Guardian also known as the local warning segment – or Phase 1 – of the SA Army’s Ground Based Air Defence System (GBADS).
GBADS Phase 1 consists of the Thales Starstreak high velocity very short-range air defence (VSHORAD) and the Thales Page local warning radar. SA ordered two radars and eight Lightweight Multiple Launchers (LML) as well as about 100 missiles in December 2002. At the time 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 Guardian had by then cost R801 million.
The July 29 contract is to support the project’s “technical learning programme” and is an extension of master contract EBEB/2001/421. The latest deal is worth R349 202. The contract follows a R533 520 deal awarded Denel Aerospace Group on September 4, 2008 for a “support facility” for the Starstreak missile as part of the same master contract and another for R1 035 496.02 awarded October 2, 2008 for “industry support for the local warning segment of the ground based air defence systems.”
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 firings of the Starstreak missile in October 2007 “went very well”. A further set of firings, were scheduled for late 2008 and it was said media would be invited. It is not clear if the firings ever happened.