The harsh climatic and terrain conditions soldiers deployed on border protection are exposed to impact on their ability to work at peak mental and physical level.
Recognising this CSIR Defence, Peace, Safety and Security, working at the request of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Joint Operations Division, has developed a multipurpose personal net.
It is still in the development phase said Lieutenant Colonel Derrick Moore but has to date shown “good potential” particularly in the Kruger National Park. It was evaluated by Grahamstown’s First City Regiment while on Operation Copper deployment at the SA Army’s Sand River base.
In addition to being printed with an existing experimental digital camouflage pattern to lessen the chances of either illegal immigrants or rhino poachers of seeing soldiers whose job it is to stop them, the net also allows a certain freedom of movement, not always possible in conventional OPs. The net also allows for direct observation from underneath, meaning soldiers do not have to expose themselves to unnecessary risks.
Importantly the net also shields from dangerous ultra-violet light and has mosquito vector holes, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards to protect against malaria. Given that the Kruger National Park is a declared malaria area this is a major health consideration. Circulation of cooler air within the confines of the net added to its UV protection factor creates a more “liveable” environment for those inside it. The net is also impregnated with insect repellent resulting in fewer ticks, flies and midges constantly worrying and biting.
Moore said the so-called “Kruger net” was more a summer net with a winter net currently on the drawing board for other parts of the country, where vegetation and ground differ from that found in the national park and the eastern and north-eastern borders.
“That will also be evaluated in time and together the ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ nets will hopefully make a difference to soldiers’ working conditions in the not too distant future,” Moore said.
The original idea behind the net was for it to primarily provide personal and base protection against wild animals with the net erected around a temporary base or OP. It would be deployed with a number of additional early warning systems to make soldiers aware of animal activity.
That it has now developed to a multi-use item of equipment is further testimony to the expertise that resides in the CSIR’s dedicated defence and security arm.
This has already been proven with rapid response to a request to make the Special Forces’ Gecko transport waterborne as well as developing a special davit system for the SA Navy to quickly launch rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) in counter-piracy operations.
Picture: This CSIR illustration indicates the extreme level of camouflage provided by the personal net. Its Defence, Peace, Safety and Security division confirms there is “a tall person” in the photograph.