Upgrade for South Africa’s air defence system


German defence company Rheinmetall AG will be responsible for the modernisation of South Africa’s air defence systems.

“The contract was signed some days ago. Including logistics and training services with the complete package scheduled for completion by 2017,” the company, represented in South Africa by Rheinmetall Denel Munitions, with State owned Denel a 49% shareholder, said in a statement.

Among others, the contract will see Oerlikon Skyshield fire control systems being supplied to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). These, the German company said, will substantially improve the performance and accuracy of the twin-gun systems currently used by the SA Army’s Air Defence Artillery Formation.

A number of guns will be retrofitted with upgrade kits to accommodate Rheinmetall’s state-of-the-art Ahead airburst ammunition.
“The new Skyshield technology will enable the SANDF to protect sensitive installations such as the Houses of Parliament, power plants, stadiums and other critical and civilian assets from a wide array of aerial threats, including asymmetric terrorist-type attacks. Because Skyshield air defence systems can be easily transported they can basically be deployed anywhere depending on the evolving threat situation,” the statement said.

The value of the contract was not disclosed.

South Africa is no stranger to Oerlikon, having acquired and used the former Oerlikon Contraves in the 1980s for air defence purposes.

The SA Army currently operates twin 35 mm air defence guns acquired from Rheinmetall ancestor company Oerlikon. The landward arm of the SANDF acquired 169 of these guns, along with 75 Superfledermaus fire control units (FCUs) in 1963. In 1990, 48 of these Mark (Mk) I guns were upgraded to Mk V status and the Superfledermaus fire control units replaced by Italian LPD20 radars, according to Engineering News.

Rheinmetall specialises in short range air defence systems, including fire control technology, anti-aircraft guns, integrated guided missile launchers and Ahead airburst ammunition.

An Ahead shell comprises 152 tungsten spin-stabilised sub-projectiles, which, when released, form a cone-shaped metal cloud, placed so the target, whether aircraft, missile or bomb, flies into it and is destroyed. The shells know when to detonate because an electronic timer is programmed, as it leaves the barrel, by an electromagnetic inductor in the gun muzzle. These inductors are fitted to the Mk VII guns.