Hensoldt South Africa showcases diverse portfolio with capability demonstration


Hensoldt South Africa recently treated delegates to a demonstration day with a view. Against the backdrop of South Africa’s capital city, we showcased our vast spectrum dominance, optronics and radar capabilities.

The demonstration took place on 26 November at Fort Schanskop, Pretoria, where Hensoldt South Africa’s Managing Director, Rynier van der Watt, was keen to showcase the wide range of capabilities in the joint portfolio of its specialised business units. The historic military landmark played host to Hensoldt’s flagship RCIED jammer, counter-drone solution, surveillance shelter system, multi-spectral observation system, laser range-finder and a fly-by visit from the Helix ISR featuring one of Hensoldt’s airborne observation systems.

Hensoldt South Africa’s spectrum dominance capabilities lie with GEW, which has for decades built the reputation as a leader in electronic warfare and spectrum management systems, while Hensoldt Optronics is one of the world’s leading optronics suppliers, covering airborne gimbals, to submarine periscopes and laser rangefinders. Van der Watt said the company is seeing good business in Europe and the Middle East for optronics and spectrum dominance deliveries.

Hensoldt South Africa is increasing its involvement in the radar, data link, identification friend or foe (IFF), customer services and business development fields, amongst many others, and this has been helped by the recent acquisition of Tellumat’s air traffic management and defence business units, which will form part of the company’s Radar Business Unit. Establishing the radar business unit has been a major priority for Hensoldt South Africa. “We have launched it and we are about three months away from having it formalised,” said van der Watt.

A presentation session and six live demonstrations took delegates from various disciplines through the organisation’s range of technologies. The first capability presentation covered the company’s radar capabilities. The radars offered by Hensoldt South Africa can be deployed for land, border, sea and air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and can be used in the most demanding terrain. HENSOLDT offers 3D radar, synthetic aperture radar, radar for counter-UAV operations and passive radar.

The company’s optronics capability was also showcased as part of the presentations and demonstrations. Hensoldt South Africa’s Optronics business unit offers end-to-end service as its 85-strong engineering department develops, tests and provides electro-optical solutions tailored to the requirements of the end-user and their environment. The company’s products are in service with the South African National Defence Force and South African Police Service, amongst others.

Two gimbals and a multi-spectral surveillance system was demonstrated during the event, showing live footage of the surrounding areas, even as far as Hartbeespoort dam and Sandton, with a Helix intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft carrying one of the gimbals and transmitting the live feed back to the event. The Helix aircraft made a sensational swoop over the crowd at the end of the event.

The Argos II HD (Airborne Observation System) gimbal is specifically designed for ISR missions. The gimbal consists of a thermal imager and a multi-spectral HDTV camera, both featuring continuous optical and electronic zoom capability. An optional multi-spectral HDTV spotter camera enables longer range target identification.

While the successful Argos II gimbal has been supplied for use on multiple aircraft, van der Watt said Hensoldt South Africa is already looking into its next generation.

Hensoldt South Africa also demonstrated its new Bushbaby long-range electro-optical sensor for land-based applications. The Bushbaby is a combination of four sensors (daylight HD sensor, mid-wave infrared HD sensor, short-wave infrared sensor and laser rangefinder) that gives 360 degree coverage, and is ideal for persistent surveillance, especially for critical infrastructure protection, border control etc. The sensors have a range of nearly 30 km.

The GEW business unit, a provider of integrated tactical and strategic EW solutions and spectrum management solutions, showcased its spectrum dominance capabilities. The unit has more than 90 specialist electronic engineers involved in the design and manufacture of its products and solutions. GEW’s signal intelligence and spectrum monitoring systems have been sold and are in operation in more than 30 countries worldwide, including with the South African Air Force, Army and Navy, and the spectrum regulatory body, ICASA.

GEW demonstrated its latest-generation automated communications intelligence (COMINT) collection and analysis solution. GEW believes it has a unique offering with its automatic signal detection, classification and decoding – allowing system operators to work as information analysts and focus on system qualified output.

The automatic signal analysis system was installed in the COMINT shelter displayed at the event. This military grade transportable shelter is developed and manufactured by GEW for tactical EW operations. The electronic support (ES) shelter solutions harness variations of Hensoldt’s own wideband direction-finding sensors, receivers and signal analysis tools, supporting the battlefield commander in tactical decision-making by intercepting and analysing communications on targeted networks for superior situational awareness.

Also on display at Fort Schanskop was the GEW GMJ9 multirole jammer, designed to protect people and platforms, combining multiple responsive jamming channels and new generations software-defined jamming waveforms for both counter-RCIED operations and tactical communications jamming in a single compact system.

The best in its size, weight and power (SWaP) class, the GMJ9’s versatility and field-proven technology delivers true spectrum dominance. Designed for deployment in armoured vehicles and light civilian vehicles alike, it is completely platform-agnostic. With several orders the past year, the GMJ9 is successfully deployed in conflict zones in northern Africa and also in South Africa.

A Hensoldt Xpeller counter-drone system was one of the products on display. With GEW leading the solution delivery, the system integrates radar, electro-optics, RF signal detection, direction finding and countermeasures to detect, identify, classify, locate and neutralise drones. The demonstration system was installed on a Ford Ranger, emphasising its portability and ease of deployment.

During the capability demonstration, Hensoldt South Africa highlighted the fact that much of the technology on display was developed and manufactured in South Africa with local expertise and a highly skilled, educated workforce. Indeed, one of HENSOLDT South Africa’s keys to success is its independence and ITAR-free technology status.

In concluding the capability demonstration, van der Watt said, “This is why we are consolidating our units, because we find clients want integrated solutions. A good example is our anti-drone solution because we have radar, optics and EW. That is how we are bringing all our technologies into one application.”