Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-05-27 Reporter:

Spurned SA Arms Group to Supply US Navy



Business Day

Date 2003-05-27

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Special to Business Day

While government may have decided the high-speed, real-time, data communications products of French arms group Thompson are better than those of Cape Town-based company CI, the world's most powerful navy does not agree.

Although rejected by the SA Navy, the electronics of CI are being fitted to the US's latest aircraft carriers and the US Marine Corps' newest San Antonio class amphibious assault ships.

When CI MD Richard Young tendered to supply three corvettes on order for the navy with his firm's combat suites, which integrate the weapons, radar and sonar systems of a warship, he lost out to the local subsidiary of the French group Thompson.

It turned out that Thompson had gone into business with the brother of the chief of arms procurement in the defence force.

Young said that since he began to kick up a stink about the way he was treated, he had not won any military business in SA.

Last month, however, he won his first direct order from the US Navy for work on a training facility in California. Previously, he has subcontracted to big US systems suppliers such as General Dynamics and Raytheon.

CI, based in Kenilworth in Cape Town, turns over about R50m a year and employs 30 people. In March, Young booked about R15m worth of business with the US. CI combat suite equipment is being fitted to the newest US aircraft carrier, the Ronald Reagan. In addition, a new US missile launch system built by Raytheon will also incorporate CI technology.

"I have always said SA technology was of the best. This decision by the US Navy just goes to show there were other forces at work in the (SA) procurement process," Young said.

With acknowledgement to Business Day.