SharpEye radar system installed aboard SAS Drakensberg

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UK based company Kelvin Hughes has installed and commissioned a SharpEye radar system onto the South African Navy’s fleet replenishment ship SAS Drakensberg.

The installation includes X and S Band SharpEye radars, IMO compliant displays and a dedicated tactical display with Kelvin Hughes Advanced Agile Tracker for helicopter approach and control.

Kelvin Hughes told defenceWeb that the purchase order was placed in July 2013, while sea acceptance tests were carried out in January 2016.

Local installation and commissioning was carried out by Radio Holland Maritime while Kelvin Hughes provided training locally in Simons Town, with further training a possibility.

The solid-state SharpEye features digital pulse compression and Doppler processing of the radar returns, allowing it to detect objects with a low radar cross section, from semi-submersed objects to the smallest of uncooperative craft, even in the most severe of weather conditions, Kelvin Hughes said in a release issued on Thursday.

Mark Butler, Kelvin Hughes’ regional sales manager, stated that SharpEye systems are currently being deployed on ships from 27 of the world’s navies.



The South African Navy has long been seeking to upgrade the radar systems aboard the SAS Drakensberg, which is the largest naval vessel to have been wholly designed and built in South Africa. Her primary role is to support and assist naval vessels at sea, enabling the South African Navy to deploy its forces for extensive periods over long distances.

Kelvin Hughes said that because the ship is designed and equipped to operate two large helicopters simultaneously, a key benefit of the Kelvin Hughes radar system is its ability to provide a Helicopter Control and Tracking capability which satisfies the requirements of flight safety.

In addition to being used as a replenishment ship, SAS Drakensberg has also been used to patrol for pirates in the Mozambique Channel as part of Operation Copper. In April 2012 she helped European warships catch seven Somali pirates in the Channel.

SAS Drakensberg was launched in April 1986 by Sandock Austral and commissioned into service in November the following year. She has a full load displacement of 12 500 tons and a length of 147 metres. She can carry 5 500 tons of fuel, 750 tons of ammunition and dry stores and 210 tons of fresh water. In addition, 50 000 litres of fresh water can be made every day. Two Oryx helicopters, two landing craft and two RHIBs can be accommodated on board as well.

The Drakensberg is the largest ship built in South Africa to date and is reportedly the first naval vessel to be completely designed in the country. In addition to her replenishment role she is employed on search and rescue duties, patrol and surveillance duties and has considerable potential for use in disaster relief.