BAE punts homeland security

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 29 Sept 2008

BAE Systems is entering a new South African market - homeland security.

It fired the first shots at this month's Africa Aerospace & Defence expo, in Cape Town, where it offered a "key facilities protection solution" based on its Spider command and control system.

Homeland security became a major government focus in the US after al Qaeda's attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon on 11 September 2001, and subsequently in the UK after similar attacks there.

The concept is wide-ranging and includes protecting people and national key infrastructure - such as power stations and airports - from terrorist attack, as well as preventing and ameliorating the effects of manmade or natural disasters.

BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies export market development and sales director Chris Nunn says Spider is designed to optimise security for existing national assets and "is designed to use the latest developments in sensor technologies".

"It can be easily integrated into existing communication networks and offers continuous monitoring capability. It uses sophisticated threat detection software to allow rapid decision-making and better co-ordination of responses to identified threats," he adds.

The system is designed to detect, deter and delay hostile activity on the boundaries of military bases, secure compounds such as the ministerial complex in Pretoria, ports and harbours, as well as key industrial infrastructure such as power stations and oil installations.

"Our key facilities protection solution significantly strengthens our product and capability range in the 'homeland security' market, Nunn adds.

When implementing a solution for a client, Nunn says BAE Systems, as a rule, brings together a team of international and in-country partners, including independent security specialists, to define the system configuration and concept of operations, which is then developed in collaboration with the customer.

"By encouraging local participation we can ensure technology, knowledge and skills are transferred," says Nunn. "However, we are also focused on an upgrade path; ensuring systems are in place to meet new threats as they evolve, together with through-life support and training."

The product punt comes as SA's security agencies prepare for next year's Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2010 Soccer World Cup. It also coincides with a drive by the Department of Safety and Security to revamp the National Key Points Act and at a time of rising tension over poor service delivery that have already given rise to incidents of public violence, vandalism and sabotage.

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