Naval warriors seek Xena

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 08 Oct 2007

The SA Navy wants to acquire an operational boat squadron (OBS) to assist the Army in peacekeeping by patrolling Africa's rivers and lakes.

The squadron will also be able to fight pirates and other maritime criminals along Africa's long coastline.

The procurement programme, dubbed Project Xena, will see the Navy buy as many as three units of five 10.3m boats each. In addition to the patrol boats, each unit will include a mobile shore facility; including accommodation and a containerised headquarters fitted with advanced voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP)-enabled command-and-control (C2) equipment.

C2 is a military discipline broadly equivalent to a mix of business process management, business intelligence and business continuity.

The user requirement specification (URS) for Xena's C2, communication and information management system (C3IMS) says the Navy currently has "a limited OBS capability, comprising boats, armament and a rudimentary communication system that were hastily put together out of items readily available from existing inventory".

The C3IMS specification calls for three subsystems: one for C2, one for communications and a third for surveillance. The Navy wants all the required hardware, software and logistics support delivered by December next year.

The URS also specifies a "turnkey" C3IMS solution "of low to medium complexity that will be fully supportable under difficult conditions far removed from a home base infrastructure by low-level technical personnel".

Basic equipment

The boats will be fitted with a radio, radar and tracking suite, which will connect with the shore-based C3IMS. The OBS base will also be fitted with observation equipment, the USR specifying a local surveillance radar, as well as "some basic night visual cameras". Also required is a Link ZA data link.

"The C2 [sub]system shall provide for the automatic plotting of patrol boats, as well as all moving targets detected by the surveillance radar, all superimposed on the same grid system," the USR adds. "Track correlation shall be done by operator intervention. The C2 [sub]system shall also include the controls and displays of the base night surveillance cameras."

The USR further specifies detailed requirements for the C3IMS, including that the base "shall be equipped with a wireless LAN system. This network shall be used for the switching and distribution of both data and telephone VOIP communication... internally, as well as externally, via the satellite comms terminal. The digital telephone instruments shall be interconnected via the wireless LAN to provide a local 'PABX-like' capability."

The LAN will also connect with a file server, two radio data entry terminals to provide adequate coverage of the base area for the wireless LAN, 10 desktop computers, 30 digital telephone instruments, two A4 monotone laser printers and two A4 inkjet colour printers.

System performance is specified at "at least 1MB per second for computer-computer data exchanges. The LAN capacity shall be that it could be expanded to accommodate at least 20 data users and 50 telephone users. The maximum range coverage of the wireless LAN shall not exceed 300m."

A modest action information system (AIS) is also required that will display the local area in the form of a standard colour electronic chart with a latitude and longitude grid reference system. "The AIS shall display the positions of all active patrol boats on the grid systems as derived from the Link-ZA message[s] ... sent out automatically by the boats when on patrol."

The Xena USR specifies no price. Those tendering are expected to give the Navy a number of options in that regard.

Related stories:
Swiss armoury chooses SA tech
2010 LOC keen to use security tech
Gripen support equipment delivered
SAAF to extend Saab contract
Army revamp to boost IT spend
SAAF develops hi-tech missile
IT companies benefit from army deal
ICT gets tactical
SA Army offers R27m for C2 system
Simulation software could ease 2010
Command and control system unveiled
SA should leverage advantage from military datalink