Botswana police deploy SA tech


The country`s new police air wing chooses a South African “eye in the sky”.The Botswana Police Service has fitted its first three Eurocopter AS350 B3 Squirrel helicopters with the Carl Zeiss Optronics LEO-II-A5 Extended Performance (EP) airborne observation system. The helicopters form the nucleus of the Botswana police`s new air wing.

The LEO-II-A5-EP enhances and expands an aircraft`s ability to perform long-range search and rescue operations, surveillance, reconnaissance, and other observation missions under all environmental conditions. It is fitted as standard to many British, German and South African police helicopters and is also being fitted to a number of SA Air Force Cessna Caravan utility transport aircraft.

Carl Zeiss Optronics MD Kobus Viljoen says the selected configuration includes the latest generation 640 x 480 high-resolution 8-9 µm Focal Plane Array (FPA) QWIP thermal imager with three fields of view (FOV), a 3-CCD daylight TV camera with a powerful zoom lens spatially matched to the thermal imager FOV.

Its wide-spectrum Spotter TV camera, with dual colour and black-and-white capability, provides close-in image magnification. The system is equipped with a video auto tracker, searchlight slaving kits, and an eye-safe laser pointer, which allows for covert marking of points of interest.

“This sensor combination provides the operator with the best picture performance under all operational conditions, including high altitude and long slant distance, thus enhancing safety and covert surveillance,” says Viljoen.

Further opportunity

Viljoen says neighbouring Namibia is also in the process of launching a police air wing equipped with the Eurocopter Squirrel and the LEO has also been selected to equip that country`s helicopter.

LEO`s capabilities can be enhanced with a data link that allows the transmission of collected video and other data to a command post or to a ground response force – provided they are equipped with suitable technology. The South African police may be investing in such technology as part of its drive to ready for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Carl Zeiss Optronics was previously known as Denel Optronics. The German company took a 70% holding in the business earlier this year, with Denel retaining the other 30%. Carl Zeiss and Denel were also to recapitalise the business to the tune of R60 million, with the Germans putting up R7 out of every R10 and the state-owned Denel the remainder.

Carl Zeiss has been involved in Denel Optronics for close to a decade. It assisted the company in assembling periscopes for the SA Navy`s three Type 209 submarines, as well as similar periscopes for the Greek and South Korean navies, as part of government`s controversial multibillion-rand strategic defence package.

According to National Treasury estimates, the arms deal, which also includes frigates, fighter jets and helicopters, will cost taxpayers R47.4 billion by 2011. Reciprocal investments to date amount to R11.4 billion.

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