Army's missile buy benefits Fulcrum

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 19 Feb 2007

Fulcrum Solutions, the niche applied-IT provider, is a major beneficiary of the SA Army's decision to acquire a new-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).

SA is the global launch customer of the Milan ADT (Advanced Digital Technology), says Fulcrum CEO Andr'e Wolmarans.

The contract, worth R167.4 million, was placed on 20 December 2006, and initially escaped media notice. The deal includes Fulcrum upgrading an initial 30 Milan (Missile d'Infanterie L'eger Antichar - light infantry anti-tank missile) firing posts to ADT standard as part of Project Kingfisher.

It will also provide training, simulators and support. MBDA, the European missile maker, will provide the munitions. "We estimate our contribution will be worth about R30 million, which is a good investment in the local industry," says Wolmarans.

The system will likely be rapidly deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where South African soldiers keep the peace. There they will provide a degree of protection against hostile forces armed with armoured vehicles or "technicals" - bakkies armed with heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles.

"We have also been contracted by MBDA to form a service hub for Africa," says Wolmarans. "They are doing a total knowledge transfer to Fulcrum regarding the firing posts. There are currently 1 600 posts in use on the continent we can look at maintaining and upgrading. The possibility of upgrading firing posts for customers in the rest of the world is not excluded," he says. "A number of countries using the Milan lack a service centre and we are looking at filling that gap."

Variants of the Milan are used by about 40 countries. About 10 000 firing posts and 360 000 missiles have been sold since 1972. The first successful ADT launch was in May last year.

SA was an early user of the original Milan system, but retired the launchers about 13 years ago when the missiles available at the time became too old to use safely and could not be replaced because of sanctions. The launchers, said to number in the three-digit range, were placed in storage.

The firing posts are to be upgraded in three batches of five, four and 20 over the next two years. The upgrade entails replacing the control box as well as the electronics of the guidance unit and integrating new software and optics. The cards bearing the software are being made in SA, and an initial batch of 33 sets is in manufacture.

MBDA is jointly owned by BAE Systems (37.5%), EADS (37.5%) and Italy's Finmeccanica (25%).

The initial phase of Kingfisher will satisfy about a half of the army's actual requirement, and a quarter of its ideal need, an independent industry source says.

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