SA radar company on look-out for new market, product opportunities

5th December 2014 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

South African radar company Reutech Radar Systems (RRS) is planning to develop new products next year, while remaining focused on its core businesses. “This is to maintain our momentum in both the defence and commercial markets,” says RRS CEO Carl Kies. RRS is a division of Reutech, itself part of the Reunert group.

“There are some projects and products we are working on that have great potential,” he reports. The company designs, develops and manufactures military radar, mining radar and has more recently diversified into tracking systems for concentrated photovoltaic plants. Some 40% of its revenues come from its military business and 60% from its civil business. The domestic/export market split is similar, with the local market accounting for 40% of revenue and exports 60%.

RRS is also exploring new markets. “On the defence side, we’re looking at the Middle East and the Far East, which present opportunities for us, and we have some initiatives there,” he states. “On the mining side, we’re looking at potential markets in the East. We’re already well established in South America and Australasia and present in North America. But there are some big markets in the East.”

The company also has a longer-term transformation initiative. It has expanded internship programmes for black trainees to promote skills development. “This is an investment into the future, for both the company and the country.”

RRS recently celebrated the launch of a book recounting the history of the company’s first 25 years (1987 to 2012). It was established specifically to develop radar systems in and for South Africa. In his speech at the book launch, former Reunert group CEO Boel Pretorius recounted: “[In 1986], I desperately wanted to establish a radar capability in South Africa.” The company was set up the next year and he affirmed that it would not have succeeded without the support of the Department of Defence and the Defence Force. “Twenty-seven years later, when we look back, I think it is something to be proud of. Very few companies last 25 years,” he asserted.

Armscor acting divisional head: radar and electronic warfare Molahlegi Molope, speaking at the same event, praised RRS for, among other things, supporting initiatives to stimulate science and engineering education among the communities around its site. Further, “[w]ith a company like RRS, we can reduce our unemployment rate because they are using our local people.” He also commended the business for remaining 100% South African owned.

The company’s first major product was the truck-mounted Kameelperd (which translates into English as ‘giraffe’) air defence radar, which has been in service for some 20 years now. RRS recently modernised these, significantly increasing their performance. These upgraded systems are now named Thutlwa, which apparently also means ‘giraffe’. (The Kameelperd and Thutlwa systems have no connection with the Saab – previously Ericsson – Kameelperd radar.) Another defence radar product is the RSR 210N naval air-sea surveillance radar, supplied to the Royal Norwegian Navy (one of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation navies) to serve primarily as helicopter control radars on the modern Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates. Then there is the RSR 900 StealthRad family of low- cost, lightweight and low probability of intercept radars. Under development is the RSR 320 ground-based three-dimensional dual-band radar.

The company has also developed a stealth tracking effective low level air defence (marketed under the acronym Stellad) system, which combines a radar and a command-and-control system to increase the effectiveness of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Further, RRS produces air defence control software.

On the civil side, the company has its monitoring and surveying radar, used for geotechnical monitoring and surveying in openpit mines. It also makes solar trackers and mountings for solar (photovoltaic) power systems and a small trailer- mounted mobile hybrid power plant.