Software causes missile delay

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 06 Nov 2007

State arms agency Armscor blames a 41-month delay in a R801 million off-the-shelf missile acquisition on software issues.

Armscor`s annual report, tabled in Parliament, says the agency placed a contract with state-owned arms manufacturer Denel in February 2003. This deal allowed for the development and delivery of the Local Warning Segment of the new Sable Ground-Based Air Defence System (GBADS) for the SA Army.

The planned contract period was 42 months, with a contractual delivery date of July 2006. "For various reasons, this programme has slipped by an indicated 41 months, and the new expected completion date is November 2009," the report reads.

The 2006/7 report intimates the Air Defence Control (ADC) and Tactical Command & Control (TCC) software may have been to blame for the delays. "During the reporting period, good progress was made on two functional elements, namely the ADC and TCC software, with factory acceptance of these elements scheduled for mid-2007."

The report adds that a "number of corrective actions have been implemented to ensure the programme will be completed by the new planned date".

Earlier this year, Armscor told Parliament the programme was running 54 months late. Industry sources ascribed the delay to Denel`s relative lack of experience in project management and high-level integration.

Armscor, at the time, listed a range of other niggles holding up the programme. These included problems with subcontracts with local suppliers, challenges in translating systems specifications, and design shortcomings affecting the thermal imager, radar power supply and radio interface module. As a result, Denel would have to pay a R80 million penalty.

Starstreak on target

At the heart of the first phase of GBADS is Starstreak, a shoulder-launched missile. The SA Army made history last week when it fired up to eight of these missiles at simulated targets to qualify the first eight operators in the live use of the processor-packed missile.

Starstreak is designed to counter low-flying high-performance aircraft and helicopters. It employs semi-automatic command line of sight guidance, consisting of a stabilised tracking system and an automatic guidance system.

Meanwhile, there is still no word from the military on the cause of last month`s anti-aircraft cannon malfunction that killed nine gunners and wounded 15.

At the time, it appeared that a software glitch may have played a role in the disaster, but most observers now discount that possibility. A board of inquiry into the incident has concluded its investigation and is preparing its report to defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota.

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