Impi gains traction in SA, abroad


The blue force tracker also functions as a miniature data modem that can communicate via radio, mobile phone and satellite networks.

The Impi blue force tracker and tactical modem continues to gain traction in the market, with the recent sale of the system to a sub-Saharan country building on Saab Grintek Defence’s ongoing installations on South African Air Force aircraft and other assets it owns. This sale is the first beyond the country’s borders, and demonstrates the solution’s universal appeal.

Even though Impi is a blue force tracker, it also functions as a miniature data modem that is able to communicate via radio, mobile phone and satellite networks. Weighing just 600g and light enough to be carried by infantry, the Impi was launched in 2011 and can be fitted onto vehicles, aircraft or naval vessels.

Impi makes use of a GSM modem, which allows mobile phone network to transmit data. Where no mobile phone network coverage is available, the system uses an embedded Iridium satellite modem, and it also has a military-standard data connection that allows it to transmit via HF, VHF and UHG radio frequencies.

The unit includes a battery and panic button, which, when activated, sends a message identifying the distressed party’s location, call sign and direction of travel. All data is recorded in a war diary, which is stamped with the date and time of any activity.

The South African National Defence Force uses Impi in conjunction with Saab Grintek Defence’s Chaka command and control system, while South African Special Forces has used the unit in operations for the past three years. The system is also being installed on South African Air Force transport aircraft and helicopters, including C-130s, Caravans, C-47TPs, BK 117s, A109s, Oryx and Rooivalk, with around 80% of these aircraft already completed. The system won’t be fitted to the Air Force’s Hawk and Gripen aircraft, as these can be tracked via their own data links.

The South African Navy is currently evaluating Impi, while the system has already been installed by the Institute for Maritime Technology. The system has been used in several recent maritime exercises, having been installed on South African and foreign warships. Other countries participating in these events included India, Brazil and Germany.

Furthermore, Impi has been deployed on every vessel that is involved in the Operation Copper anti-piracy initiative in the Mozambique Channel, including on the Maritime Reaction Squadron.

“The Impi solution gives users the option to control their own server, giving them an added level of confidence in data security,” says Ockert van der Schyf, Marketing C2 at Saab Grintek Defence. “Impi was primarily designed for military applications, but it is also suitable for commercial applications, such as the tracking of aircraft. Even though it is a more expensive solution than existing commercial counterparts, it offers greater functionality and security, and could offer international commercial transport operations the extra layers of security that they seek.”

Although Impi is designed and produced in South Africa by Saab Grintek Defence, the solution has been the subject of significant interest beyond the country’s borders, and the company continues to market it further afield.