South African Electronic Warfare Technology Excelling on Global Scale

South African electronic warfare technology has, and continues to make its mark in the international military arena, with home-grown self-protection systems being used by numerous defence forces around the world.

An impressive range of defence forces – including India, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Oman, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Peru, and Greece - are using indigenous South African electronic warfare technology, with 90% of the systems being designed and produced in Saab Grintek Defence facilities in South Africa. It is a little known fact that roughly ninety-five percent of the systems manufactured in South Africa are sold to export markets, making it a valuable source of revenue for South Africa. Job creation in engineering and production are additional advantages. To illustrate this further, at a recent function held by the Department of Trade and Industry, Saab Grintek Defence was awarded the distinguished title as Best Export Company in South Africa.

“There is this assumption that Africa is not strong when it comes to technology and innovation, but this turns that view on its face,” says Chris Skinner, head of marketing and sales at Saab Grintek Defence.

He says Saab’s Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS) for airborne platforms provides users the ability to determine whether they are being observed by radar systems, warns the pilots when missiles are fired at the platform and when they are being illuminated by laser based threats, and then delivers appropriate countermeasures when fired upon - which requires keeping track of every type of signal out there.

Saab's integrated defence aids system (IDAS) is an electronic warfare system designed to provide multi-spectral self-defence in sophisticated, laser warning, missile approach warning, as well as radar based threat scenarios, and is suitable for both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Protection systems are also developed and produced for both land and naval applications.

Skinner says that Saab South Africa’s contract with the Indian air force, one of its biggest customers to date, with a current order value in excess of R400 million, is the perfect illustration of long-term use of South African products and technology as this platform will remain in production for many years to come.

“India developed a local helicopter, the ALH or advanced light helicopter, with Saab selected as the default self-protection system for its air force and army. We’re now working with them on several levels: the provision of the original systems, training and technology transfer to allow the Indian industry to initially handle the in-country support, and eventually almost full local production of our systems,” he explains.

Apart from air force customers, Saab is also supplying original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) such as Agusta Westland and Eurocopter with self-protection systems as well as avionic equipment including Health and Usage Monitoring, Mission Recorders and Communications Controllers, for inclusion into packages for their end customers.

“With IDAS, a locally developed and manufactured product, airborne platforms can radically improve defensive and operational capabilities, which in itself is gratifying, but add the significant source of export revenue and it becomes something of which we are extremely proud,” comments Magnus Lewis-Olssen, Saab South Africa’s CEO.