Publication: Beeld Issued: Date: 2003-09-24 Reporter: Erika Gibson

'Starwars Helmet' A Reality




Date 2003-09-24


Erika Gibson

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Pretoria - A South African arms manufacturer will earn millions with an "intelligent" pilot helmet that can send several observations to the plane's weapons' systems and direct a missile to a target that the pilot is looking at.

Kentron Cumulus, a division of Denel, signed a multi-million rand deal with BAE Systems of Britain and Saab in Sweden to manufacture track-and-detect systems for these helmets. The helmets will be used in the Eurofighter-Typhoon and Gripen fighter planes.

The initial value of the contract is estimated at R80m. The contract forms part of the counter-trade contracts included in South Africa's multi-billion rand arms acquisition programme.

BAE Systems and Saab are the suppliers of the new Hawk training fighter jets and Gripen fighter planes to the defence force.

Bob Mason, project director of BAE Systems, said on Wednesday that helmet technology formed an integral part of modern aviation capabilities.

It allows a pilot to destroy an enemy fighter or target with little effort, and it is also crucial for night vision.

Sensors in the plane "feed" the helmet's tracking system with data on a specific target, tells the pilot exactly how far away the target is, which then allows the necessary weapons to be fired.

Cumulus has been involved in manufacturing similar equipment, used in police helicopters and the Rooivalk attack helicopters, for years.

Victor Moche, senior chief executive of Denel, said it was appropriate to sign the agreement on Heritage Day, since "top technology was part of Denel's heritage".

This new injection will build on the foundation to empower employees and establish a stronger skills base in South Africa.

Cumulus is already producing between 80 and 100 of the helmet systems per year. The Eurofighter-Typhoon will require 800 systems and the Gripen 250.

Additional orders could be forthcoming.

With acknowledgements to Erika Gibson and the Beeld.