South African Defence company Saab Grintek Defence, with its Swedish parent group, Saab, is actively seeking a partner to complete the development of its cutting edge Land Electronic Defence System 150 (Leds-150) active protection (self-defence) system for armoured vehicles. The Leds-150 detects incoming antiarmour missiles, rockets and other projectiles and launches a small inter- ceptor missile that destroys the incoming weapons before they reach the vehicle.
Leds-150 has been competitively analysed by several international government agencies and is consistently regarded as the benchmark solution in the world today. It has also been tested in the US at a prototype stage and displayed some very impressive results – for example, defeating rocket propelled grenades fired from as close as 25 m from the vehicle.
“It’s a South African development,” highlights Saab Grintek Defence CEO Magnus Lewis-Olsson. “We’ve invested many years and a lot of money in this. Saab Sweden has also invested a lot in it and now we need a co-developer to finish it. It is one of the bigger engineering programmes in defence in South Africa.” Development of the Leds-150 started in 2005. “We are talking to potential co-developers in some countries in Europe. Ideally, we aim to find a partner who will also be the first customer.” (At the moment, a Leds 150-type system is not the top priority for the South African Army.)
The Leds-150 is the latest development in a family of complementary self-protection systems designed to protect armoured vehicles from enemy engagement. The entry level system, the Leds-50, warns the crew of an armoured vehicle if it is being illuminated by an enemy laser. On the battlefield, lasers are used to determine ranges with extreme accu- racy to increase the accuracy of unguided weapons (such as tank shells), as a guidance system for missiles or to illuminate the vehicle to make it visible as a target for the semi-active guidance systems used by some weapons.
In all cases, laser illumination means an armoured vehicle and its crew are in great danger and need an immediate counter- measures response (coupled with the correct drills). The Leds-50 provides hemispheric detection and warning and 360º azimuth and optional full hemispheric countermeasures deployment. It warns the crew of an impending attack and also gives the type of threat and the direction from which it is coming, allowing them to take appropriate action while the system automatically deploys countermeasures in less than one second. The Leds-50 Mark 2 can, optionally, be integrated with and aim steerable launchers or other electro-optical systems, such as jammers or laser dazzlers (provided by third parties) to defeat the guidance control loop of enemy weapons systems.
The Leds family also provides standard inter- faces for integration into battle management systems. This means that the moment that an enemy illuminates any vehicle in a force, the threat will immediately become visible to all the vehicle commanders on the network. This enhances the situational awareness of the force and reduces tactical response time since it takes the guesswork out of determining the direction and nature of the threat, relative to the vehicles. With this level of integration it is also possible to direct the vehicle turret or remote weapon station on to the threat. This capability is already operationally deployed by the Royal Dutch Army on one of its CV90/35 tracked infantry fighting vehicles. This was the first North Atlantic Treaty Organisation contract landed by Saab Grintek Defence.
The Leds family is not Saab Grintek Defence’s only product line. It also develops and manufactures electronic warfare (EW) systems for aircraft – including radar warning receivers, laser warning receivers and chaff (countermeasures) dispensers – avionics systems (particularly Health and Usage Moni- toring Systems, air data recorders and commu- nications management systems) and command and control (C2) systems. “We have fitted out the South African Air Force with all its EW equipment on helicopters and aircraft,” he points out. “Then we have C2, which is the part of the company that does the most business in South Africa. There’s a lot of indigenous IP [intellectual property] in C2. It’s invented here. It’s something we’re proud of.”
Currently, most of Saab Grintek Defence’s markets are outside South Africa. They are located in Asia, the Middle East, South America, with some in Europe. For its EW, avionics and Leds products, 90% to 95% of revenues come from exports. For command- and-control, it is 50% export and 50% local. “Last year, we won the title of Best Export Company in South Africa from the Department of Trade and Industry,” notes Lewis-Olsson.
Saab Grintek Defence is a South African company with a lot of local intellectual property, where the majority ownership happens to belong to an overseas group. About 99% of Saab Grintek Defence’s employees are South Africans. The company was one of the exhibi- tors at the Land Forces Africa 2013 conference at the CSIR International Conference Centre in Pretoria last month.