SA Arms Back on World Map
Pretoria - The signing of two multi-million rand military export contracts has put South Africa's arms industry back on the map, claims arms manufacturer Denel, after the deals were signed with Europe's BAE Systems-Saab.
The R75-million contracts, involving the sale of a hi-tech helmet tracking system, were officially announced at Denel's facility in Centurion yesterday and form part of South Africa's Gripen and Hawk procurement deals.
South Africa is in the process of buying 28 Gripen fighter jets from the Swedish company Saab as part of the country's multi-million rand arms procurement deal.
The two export contracts involve the sale of the advanced helmet tracking system for Nato's latest jet fighters, the Eurofighter-Typhoon, and for components for the Gripen helmet display system.
Denel and BAE are to supply 620 Typhoons with 800 advanced helmet tracking systems and 200 Gripen fighters with 250 components for the helmet display system.
Denel and BAE are currently working together to capture the world's market for hi-tech helmet tracking systems worth an estimated R14 billion.
Making the announcement, Denel CEO Victor Moche said the tracking helmet systems "provided unequivocal proof that we in South Africa have the technologies and the manufacturing skills the world market needs".
"What makes us extremely proud is that the equipment for the helmet tracking system was developed here in South Africa by South African technicians," said Moche.
South Africa's helmet tracking system, which can be used in helicopters and fighter jets, is currently ranked as the world's best.
Explaining how the helmet worked, BAE's Eurofighter Display Helmet project director Bob Mason said the helmet would provide a pilot with all the information he needed when going into battle, allowing him never to have to look at the instrument panels.
"The system forms part of the aircraft system and allows a pilot to control weapons and take readings of targets location and distance by simply 'looking' at them.
"Once the pilot has spotted the target with his eye the weapons guided system picks up on the target and directs the missile or cannon by itself.
"All of this is done through special sensors located on the helmet," said Mason.
He said the system, which could also be used at night with an infra-red display, also provided pilots with information on way-points, height, speed and warnings.
Mason said what made the system the best in the world was that it was accurate and provided precision weapons control, which made it extremely deadly.
Saab South African executive vice president Kjell Moller said major benefits would be gained by all sides.
"Some of these benefits would be the opening up of new export markets for this and other hi-tech South African products to countries such as Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and France whose pilots fly the Typhoon fighter," he said.
With acknowledgements to Graeme Hoskin and the Cape Times.