Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2003-02-22 Reporter: Paul Kirk

SA Firm to Equip US Navys Best


Publication  The Natal Witness
Date 2003-02-22


Paul Kirk

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After failing to win contracts to supply the South African Navy with equipment for its new corvettes, a Cape Town electronics company will soon see its products used on the US Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers - the most expensive, the largest and most powerful warships afloat, as well as the latest class of US Navy vessels, the San Antonio-class of amphibious assault vessels.

The USS Ronald Reagan, the newest of its class and completed this year, has already been fitted with the same South African equipment intended for the SA Navy's new corvettes.

In addition to the equipment being fitted to the aircraft carriers, all new Guided Missile Launch Systems for the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) being built by the US Raytheon Missile Company will incorporate South African technology.

The oldest of the Nimitz-class carriers, the USS Nimitz, has already been modernised with a self-defence system incorporating the SA electronics products.

All Nimitz-class carriers weigh over 100 000 tons and carry 85 aircraft. Amazingly, they are capable of speed matching - or exceeding - that of the SA Navy's tiny strike craft.

The mission-critical data networks for the carriers and AAVs are is produced by Cape Town-based CI Systems. The selection of CI's products is certain to help their claims presently being made in court that they failed to win SA Navy contracts due to skullduggery.

The American carrier fleet, while the largest in the world, is long in the tooth. The Kitty Hawk and Enterprise Class carriers were built in 1961.

The contract to build the USS Ronald Reagan was awarded in the late middle nineties to a US company called Newport News Shipbuilding and is worth more than R30 billion.

Young is presently embroiled in litigation against the South African government, demanding damages after he failed to win a contract to supply combat suites data networks for the SA Navy's new corvettes. Ironically, it is the components that were originally designed for South Africa's relatively puny corvettes that will now protect the mightiest warship afloat.

In hearings last year before the Public Protector, the decision not to select Young's products in favour of a system produced by a company owned by Schabir Shaik, the brother of the chief of defence procurement Shamin "Chippy" Shaik, was defended by the SA Navy.

At the hearings, Rear Admiral Jonathan Kamerman testified that Young's products were only "technology demonstrators". He further claimed that, while the products of Young's "fine little company" held "significant potential", they had not been used in any warship and represented a risk if used in the corvettes.

Young is engaged in litigation against Kamerman - who he is suing for defamation - and several other figures involved in the arms deal.

Kamerman, who is based in Germany, did not defend the case and lost. He later applied for a rescission of the judgement which was undefended and therefore granted. However, this case comes up again for trial in the new year.

Asked to comment on his company's success, Young said he is delighted that his products are to be used by the US Navy. "I have always said that South African technology was of the best. This decision just goes to show there were other forces at work in the procurement process."

This has been further clarified by the corruption case against Schabir Shaik as well as the allegations that Jacob Zuma received a bribe of R500 000 per year to protect the interests of the French company Thales who were awarded the contract that Young lost.

Young said that at the time Kamerman made his claims his company was already exporting identical data networking equipment for use in other American warships, but that he had no idea it was to be used on a project as important as the aircraft carriers.

In his 26th July 2003 judgement against Yunis Shaik, brother of Schabir Shaik, Mr Justice Hennie Nel of the Cape High Court found as follows

"Since early 1999 he (Young) has sold the hardware and the four lowest levels of protocol software of the IMS for use in (NATO) AWACS aircraft, to the United States Navy, the Unites States Marine Corps, the Swedish Navy and the German Navy.

"It is being used in the latest United States aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, commissioned this year, as well as in the US Navy's latest class of ships, the San Antonio class of Marine Corps assault vessels."

"I consider this to be a huge vote of confidence. It is a great pity we were not able to supply the technology to the South African Navy."

"This is an extremely important contract. It vindicates what I have been saying and shows South African products are among the best in the world. We should be proud of what we can produce."

With acknowledgement to Paul Kirk and The Natal Witness.