The defence force is one of the best breeding grounds for scarce skills, says Denel Integrated Systems Solutions CEO Ralph Mills.
The firm last week announced the completion of phase one of its ground-based air defence system, whose design dates back to 2002.
« It’s a totally South African integrated product, although it made use of overseas components. The spin-off is system engineering. We’re going to need good systems, and defence is the best breeding ground for system engineers, » said Mr Mills.
The air defence system was a training ground for such skills. The South African National Defence Force is the sole client of the system. It will be used to counter air-based threats. Even though SA is not at war, such weapons are important for applications such as border patrols and peacekeeping missions.
Hanlo Pretorius, programme manager for the project at Armscor, the procurement arm of the defence force, said on Friday: « It contributes to airspace security. It could be used also in peace operations where you want to ensure certain air force bases, or some critical asset, are under air defence protection. »
Neither Mr Pretorius nor Mr Mills would disclose the cost of the project.
Mr Pretorius said the challenge, and reason for the decade-long time frame, was that it was a digital new-generation command-and-control project, and that this had to be assimilated with the defence force’s old communications equipment.
On Friday, the South African Air Force and Denel Aviation signed an agreement to consolidate their resources — providing a lifeline to the cash-strapped air force.
In providing for combined maintenance services, the partnership would lead to the greater availability of transport aircraft used by the air force and more flying hours for pilots, said air force chief Lt-Gen Carlo Gagiano.
By Sarah Wild/Nick Hedley