Publication: SA Shipping News Issued: Date: 2003-11-01 Reporter:

ADS Gears Up to Begin Installing Combat System



SA Shipping News

Date November 2003

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The German shipyards - Blohm & Voss and HDW (HowaldtswerkeDeutsche Werft AG) - might be breathing a sigh of relief that they have handed over the first of the four patrol corvettes commissioned by the SA Navy, but the real work for African Defence Systems (ADS), in joint development with Thales Naval of France, is only just beginning.

The company is supplying the very largely home grown, highly complex and sophisticated Combat System for the corvettes, and will begin installing them on 5 November.

This will only be completed in April 2004 after which harbour acceptance trials will commence. Sea acceptance trials then start in August or September, followed by further trials by the SA Navy. Final handover to the SA Navy is anticipated to be only in November 2005.

Meanwhile the other vessels are to be handed over at roughly three month intervals after the SAS Amatola arrives, and will be used in the interim for crew training of the actual platform, until the combat system can be installed.

The entire project is anticipated to be complete by March 2006.

The combat management system (CMS), developed by ADS, is the most important sub-system on board, taking all information from the sensors on board, collating it and presenting it on the various displays in the form of a coherent tactical picture.

It consists of 6 consoles, one on the bridge and five in the operations room. The bridge display console is essentially for navigation and incorporates some electronic charting functions.

In the operations room there is the radar control console which controls the main search radar (MSR), the air control console (aircraft and ship's helicopter), tactical picture console (builds scenario from all sensors and displays it to the operator), anti-air warfare console (decides which targets to engage and allocates targets and trackers), and the surface control console (for surface warfare and typically for surface to surface missile engagements).

Coupled to the CMS are various subsystems supplied by sub-contractors. These are as follows :

Electronic warfare system (a new local development by Avitronics Maritime, Muizenberg)

Consists of radar intercept system that can detect radio signals in different bands; active jamming system which is one antenna on top of a bridge which you can jam the enemies radars and communication; rocket decoy system (two launches, one on each side of the ship) which can launch decoy chartered infrared rockets; electronic warfare support measure' laser warning system (future upgrade) and a blanking control panel.

Multi Role Radar (Thales Naval France)

An off-the-shelf system in service with many navies. It has been customised to only two channels - a surface channel and an air channel -for greater reliability. It is 3-dimensional radar giving its targets, elevation and range. It also has electronic beam steering to detect the target. In normal mode can detect up to 460 targets in 8 sweeps of radar. The a rotator for the multi role radar was produced by Reutech Radar Systems, Stellenbosch.

Identification Friend or Foe (a joint development between Tellumat, Retreat, Cape Town and Thales Naval France). It is an interrogator used to interrogate a target that must then reply in a specific code. Tellumat develops the transponder and Thales Naval the interrogator.

Optronic Radar Tracker and Electro Optical Tracker (built by Reutech Radar Systems, Stellenbosch). It's a combination of a radar and electro-optic search system which can track targets in radar band or with W, laser and infrared sensors.

Hull Mounted Sonar (bought out item from Thales Underwater Systems, France). The CSIR in Pretoria has been responsible for assembling it. It is a 5 to 8 kHz sonar with 360 degree detection of underwater targets.

Medium Gun Weapon (developed by LIW, Lyttleton, Pretoria). For cost saving purposes an existing 76mm gun from a strike craft was modernized and customised for reuse.

Dual Purpose Gun (developed by LIW) A 35mm gun with two barrels, each able to fire at 550 rounds per minute (20 rounds a second).

MM40 Exocet Surface to Surface missile (bought out item from MBDA France, in service with a lot of navies) There are 8 on board, each with a range of 70km and 150kg of weight. It is the main surface engagement weapon.

Umkhonto Surface to Air Missile (developed by Kentron, Irene). It is a fully South African development and probably the biggest risk when the project started. However the project has been going very well and Finland and Sweden has decided to buy the missile from South Africa. It is an infra red missile which uses infra red signatures to home into. Sixteen of these vertical launch canisters are being fitted on board the ship with provision for another 16 canisters. The missile speed is about 1500 km per hour and each costs just over R1 million, weighs 23kg and is used mainly for anti-missile and aircraft defence.

Shipboard Communications System (developed by Grintek Telecoms, Retreat). This is an integrated and comprehensive system servicing all voice and data communication requirements both within and external to the vessel.

Other more minor combat suite systems include a data link control system between vessels: a video sub-system; target designation sights; a tilt measurement which rotates the guns and trackers to assess how accurate they are: and a navigation distribution system which takes information from all sensors and places it on database for all sub-systems. A system maintenance system collects all of the online health status messages from sub-systems (also developed by ADS) and a bridge safety unit where all firing lines are through one central unit so in emergency the line can be cut (also ADS).

Training is incorporated into the contract and training of the first group of mainly software designers and engineers began last year. They will act as instructors to the other personnel. Similarly the crews of first two vessels are receiving training which takes place in South Africa, Germany and in France.

Selection of the crew is based on the usual criteria: experience, rank, technical education, completed naval courses and exposure on strike craft. The recruitment process is standard: personnel apply for the posts they are interested in and the selection board assesses them on merit.

For training purposes ADS'S Combat Team Trainer system is being installed at the Maritime Training School. It simulates the operations room using as far as possible the actual software systems on board but in a low cost hardware format. This is due for completion in January 2004.

With acknowledgements to the Shipping News.