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

SA Firm to Equip US Navy's Best



SA Shipping News

Date November 2003

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After failing to win contracts to supply the SA Navy with equipment for its new corvettes, a Cape Town electronics company will soon see its products used on the latest American aircraft carriers - the most expensive, the largest and most powerful warships afloat.

In December 2002, the US Navy announced that it would name its lot Nimitz-class aircraft carrier after former US President, George Bush, who flew as a naval pilot during World War 2. Bush was the youngest US Navy pilot of the war and was decorated for bravery four times. The USS George Bush will join the fleet in 2009.

The USS Ronald Reagan, due to be completed this year, has already been fitted with a host of South Africa products. In addition to the equipment being fitted to the two 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 being 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.

According to the US Navy's website, the USS George Bush will be the most advanced to the Nimitz class carriers and will be a bridge between the technology of the Nimitz-class and the next generation of carriers.

The electronics are produced by Cape Town based C212 Systems. The selection of C212 products is certain to help their claims presently being made in court that they failed to win SA navy contracts due to skulllduggery.

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 George Bush was awarded in early 2002 to a US company called Newport News Shipbuilding and is worth more than R40 billion.

The ship is being hailed as revolutionary by the US Navy, largely because of electronic systems sourced from a former Pietermaritzburg man, Richard Young. Young is presently embroiled in litigation against the SA 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 suiting 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 is now applying for a rescission of the judgement.

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.

"I consider this to be 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," he concluded.

With acknowledgements to The Natal Witness and the Shipping News.