BAE Systems completes IST merger

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 02 Sept 2008

Global defence and aerospace multinational BAE Systems (BAES) has completed the integration of the former IST Dynamics into its local Land Systems business.

This has created a R2.3 billion company focused on smart armoured vehicles, aviation and space technology.

The company will now be known as BAES Land Systems Dynamics. GM Roelof van Rooyen says the business will remain involved in SA's bid to be home of a 1.5 billion euro Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

"We recently received a contract for seven 12m antennas for the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT) programme," he says. He would not disclose a value for the deal.

KAT is a working prototype for the 80-dish, R900 million MeerKAT, itself a prototype for SA's SKA offering. SA is competing against Australia to host the space science project.

Land Systems Dynamics developed the world's first large composite material satellite dish for KAT and this is also being offered to the Australian bid via BAES Australia.

Van Rooyen says this illustrates the greatest advantage of the deal for the former IST subsidiary. "The most important thing [resulting from the merger] is becoming part of the world's third largest defence contractor," he says.

Another benefit, he adds, is BAES' 25% black shareholding, which gives the company the right BEE credentials.

Furthermore, being part of a large global company with a big balance sheet, means it can now bid on bigger programmes and will stand a better chance of winning them.

Van Rooyen says this includes the SKA, which will require the rapid manufacture of thousands of composite material satellite dishes.

Land Systems Dynamics is now a separate business unit within Land Systems SA. But, combined with the armoured vehicle business, Land Systems OMC, it will also allow the parent company to graduate to a complete systems supplier.

Land Systems SA has traditionally been a vehicle builder, specialising in the construction of armoured vehicle hulls. The acquisition gives it a foot in the intelligent turret market and also creates an in-house IT capability that one company official says "puts us in a position to be a prime contractor".

Other than satellite dishes, Land Systems Dynamics specialises in digital ballistic fire control computers, video auto-trackers, multifunction displays with graphic overlays, and remotely operated gun and missile turrets.

The company was also part of the R8 billion Rooivalk attack helicopter manufacturing programme that may soon be revived.

Related stories:
BAE Systems buys IST Dynamics
SA steps up SKA bid
SKA race hots up
Meerkat dish prototype tested