Saab Grintek Defence’s Impi blue force tracker gets first export order


Saab Grintek Defence has sold its Impi Blue Force tracker and tactical modem to a Sub-Saharan African country, and continues to install the system on South African Air Force aircraft and other assets, which are using it both operationally and in exercises.

Ockert Van der Schyf, Marketing C2, Saab Grintek Defence, told defence Web that although Impi is a blue force tracker, it also functions as a miniature data modem that can use radio, cell phone and satellite networks to communicate. Originally designed as a training aid, the .6 kg Impi was launched in 2011 by Saab in South Africa. It can either be fitted onto vehicles, aircraft or naval vessels as well as be carried by soldiers.

Impi incorporates a GSM modem, allowing a cell phone network to transmit the tracks. Where no cell phone coverage is available, an embedded Iridium satellite modem is used. It also has a mil-standard data connection, allowing the utilisation of HF, VHF and UHF radios to transmit the tracks. Data security is ensured by encryption.

Together with an on-board battery, a panic button is also incorporated into the unit. When pressed, a message will give position, call sign as well as the direction of travel of the person in duress. Besides Impi recording tracks which are then available for replay, everything that goes into the system and comes out of it is automatically recorded in a War Diary (on the receiving situational awareness display system) which is date/time stamped.

Impi is fairly widely used in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), in conjunction with Saab’s Chaka command and control system, which displays Impi data. South African Special Forces have used the unit operationally on deployments for the past three years.

Van der Schyf said Impi is being installed on all South African Air Force (SAAF) transport aircraft and helicopters and this process is around 70-80% completed. Van der Schyf said that all active transport and rotary wing aircraft (C-130s, Caravans, C-47TPs, BK 117s, A109s, Oryx and Rooivalk) will receive the system but that the Hawks and Gripen will not as they can be tracked via their data links.

Impi is replacing the commercial Spidertrack system used as an interim measure aboard SAAF aircraft. This system has its server in New Zealand, which makes it far less safe than Impi, which gives the user the option to control its own server and thus protect its information.

The South African Navy (SAN) is currently evaluating Impi together with another system from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The systems have been installed by the Institute for Maritime Technology.

Van der Schyf said Impi is deployed on every vessel that sails to the Mozambique Channel as part of the anti-piracy Operation Copper. He said that this started around a year after Copper was established. Impi is also deployed by the Maritime Reaction Squadron, which accompanies Operation Copper vessels.

Impi has been used during recent maritime exercises, notably during Ibsamar IV last year between South Africa, India and Brazil, and Good Hope VI with Germany last month. The systems were installed on both South African and foreign warships.

Apart from the SANDF, Saab Grintek Defence is actively promoting Impi on the international market and in the third quarter of last year received its first export order, from a Southern African Development Community (SADC) country which bought a small number of Impis (together with Chaka command and control software). Van der Schyf said he was optimistic about more orders for the system going forward.

Apart from military use, Impi has civilian applications, although as an encrypted and hardened military system it is more expensive than commercial counterparts. It has been offered for commercial aircraft tracking and the African Union last week released an expression of interest in such a system, to which SGD has responded.