During a handover ceremony at the Air Defence Artillery (ADA) School in Kimberley on 10 July 2015, three ESR 220 Thutlwa Battery Fire Control Posts (BFCPs) were officially handed over from the Department of Defence Acquisition environment to the ADA Formation User environment.
Carl Kies, CEO of Reutech Radar Systems, as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), ceremonially handed over the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs to Henry Green, Armscor Command and Control Divisional Head.
The final ceremonial handover was done by Brig Gen DA Skosana, SA Army Director Product Systems Management to Brig Gen SG Hlongwa, General Officer Commanding ADA Formation. This handing over heralds a significant milestone in the life of the ESR 220 system, as all four BFCPs are now commissioned and in the hands of the ADA Formation.
The ESR 220 is a highly mobile, solid-state L-band 2D surveillance radar designed to provide early warning to Air Defence Artillery troops in the field. As a fully autonomous armoured system with self-contained power plant packaged on the Aljaba carrier vehicle, it is capable of being operational within 10 minutes of arrival at a deployment site.
In the early 90s, the ESR 220 BFCP started life as the Kameelperd and four systems were manufactured. There has been a programme of continuous improvement and incremental upgrading on the Kameelperd system. It has been available to the SADF and the SANDF ever since the first prototype system was delivered in 1992.
With the establishment of the Ground Based Air Defence System (GBADS) for the SANDF, one BFCP was upgraded to the GBADS Local Warning Troop Battery Fire Control Post baseline, and in 2007 became known as the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP (Thutlwa is the Tswana word for a giraffe). All four ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs were recently upgraded to the latest Local Warning Segment baseline.
The ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs have been extensively used for training, ADA Formation exercises, operational deployments and the funeral of the late President Mandela. Two operational deployments during which the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP systems played a major strategic role were:
* 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup: The SANDF was given the responsibility to secure the airspace around the World Cup stadiums. ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs were deployed around the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium. These systems provided coverage against low-flying objects that could be difficult to detect. The real-time information provided by the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCPs supported effective decision-making by the Joint Operation Centres.
* 2011 South Sudan Independence: The South African government deployed a military contingent to Juba and this heralded the first deployment of the ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP beyond the borders of South Africa. The ESR 220 Thutlwa BFCP was deployed at Juba airport to support the SA Air Force in providing radar coverage of the airfield for airspace control functionality. On the same day of its arrival at Juba, the ESR 220 system was declared operational with an air picture provided via the Air Picture Display System to the SA Air Force air traffic controllers.