DMD holds naval “show and tell”


Naval combat, engineering and technical officers got a glimpse of a number of projects currently underway to further enhance the capabilities of the South African Navy, ranging from improvements to radar systems to unmanned aerial vehicles to the means to defend ships against asymmetric attack.

The department`s research and acquisitions agency, Armscor hosted a Maritime Technology Exposition at its Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) in Simon`s Town on Tuesday in conjunction with the Defence Technology Development Board (DTDB).

The board is an ad hoc structure in the Defence Materiel Division (DMD, formerly the Defence Acquisitions and Procurement Department) of the Defence Secretariat, where the DTDB forms part of the DMD`s Directorate Technology.

Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs, the Flag Officer Fleet, said the aim of the day was to inform the audience about local technology that was being researched and developed by the Defence Evaluation and Research Institutes (DERI) and the defence-related industries “to enhance new or existing South African Navy warfare capabilities.” 

In his opening address he said that the planning and setting of requirements was usually done at Navy Office level, with little or no input provided by the Fleet and the end-users aboard the ships.  

“The organisers felt that it was important to involve the Fleet in these activities and requirement settings as (the serving officers) should also have an input into identifying requirements at the tactical level for the future”. 

The SANDF has budgeted R303 million for research in the current financial year, of which approximately R28 million is allocated for maritime research.

Although the bulk of these funds (R24 million) are allocated to the IMT, the exposition demonstrated a sample of non-IMT research technologies. 

Higgs added that SA spends just four cents in the Rand on defence, while a country like Singapore spends 28 cents. “Four cents in the Rand is not good enough for a country that wants to be a serious player. We must look after the interests of South Africa,” Higgs said. 


Among the sample of projects presented was an anti-multipath enhancement for the Valour-class frigates` Optronic Radar Tracker (ORT). The “MECORT” is a prototype ORT for radar and optronics research to prevent multipathing, the phenomenon of multiple radar signals reflecting off a low-flying target, one directly to the radar receiver and the other via ‘bouncing` off the surface of the sea.

This can cause the radar to erroneously think that a target is much lower than it actually is. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has studied the problem in a realistic simulation environment, which will lead to a software update to the ORT with no domino effect to the rest of the combat suite. Trials have been ongoing since 2004. Pre-production testing will commence in 2009, leading to a roll-out on all ORTs in 2010.

As navies are increasingly subjected to asymmetric warfare, a Close-In Surveillance System (CISS) is gaining in importance. Such close-in asymmetrical threats are generally cheap and fast, such as small vessels, RPGs, swimmers and IEDs. Immediate identification of the threat and quick decision-making is paramount.

Protoclea, in conjunction with Armscor, is developing an automated imaging processing and analysis system, using electro-optic sensors, to improve ship security. This will automatically detect any threats within 1-2 km of the vessel. These threats will then be identified, classified and analysed. The result will then be presented to the ship`s captain or principal warfare officer with, if possible, scenario analysis. The platforms defensive systems may also be slaved to the CISS for immediate action should the command be given. 

SAAB Avitronics and the University of Stellenbosch presented on the development of an active off-board decoy system. An active off-board decoy is a decoy which is used to seduce an incoming anti-ship missile away from its intended target by actively transmitting RF energy to interfere with the missiles tracking sensor.

The three main areas of development are the RF payload (SAAB Avitronics), the flight platform (University of Stellenbosch) and the ship and system integration (IMT).

The RF payload is based on the concept of an active broadband repeater, launched from the vessel, in order to confuse the missile seeker by moving the missile range gate (where the missile seeker expects to find the target echo) away from the vessel.

The two concepts for the flight platform are a flying ducted fan design and a tethered rotor platform. ECM trials commenced in 2005 and an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator should be ready in 2010.  

The University of Stellenbosch presented their studies on the autonomous control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that could result in an autonomous maritime surveillance helicopter UAV.

This UAV would be cheap and provide automated take-off, waypoint guidance and landing. The UAV would incorporate a surveillance payload and video downlink.

Development of the automated waypoint guidance has been completed, with automated take-off and landing from a moving vehicle scheduled to commence in July. The surveillance payload has been acquired, but has not yet been integrated. The technology demonstrator was displayed, hooked up to a computerised flight simulator.  

The new StealthRad family of small and mobile surveillance radars was demonstrated by Reutech Radar Systems. These radars are ideal for marine, coastal and battlefield surveillance, movement detection and border and perimeter monitoring.

By using solid-state Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technology, a reliable, low cost short-range/close-in radar with a low probability of detection and jamming can be produced. The radars can be vehicle, land or ship mounted.  

For harbour defence, the displays of the sensors may need to be presented in a temporary operation room, such as the containerised systems being developed by Thermodynamics Fluids & Design. They produce containers for mobile command and control that are fully equipped, air-conditioned and are self-loading. 

The University of Stellenbosch demonstrated their research in Human Language Technology, which can assist in translating phrases from one language to another.

Armscor`s Ergotech presented their findings from their research on the effects of motion on the body and the ergonomics in the maritime environment. 

Biological and chemical environment research was conducted by Armscor`s Protechnik and their findings may help in the biological and chemical defence of ships. 

SAAB Avitronics are also involved in the application of active protection technology in the littoral and inland water environment, while the CSIR presented on sonar development for underwater security.