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Upgrades for SAAF’s air-defence radar

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Tellumat has upgraded and replaced important parts of the SA Air Force's "Umlindi" long-range air-defence radar system with the integration of a new processor suite, state-of-the-art technical monitor workstations, custom-written software, servers and a converged TCP/IP network. 

Colin Meintjes, Tellumat Defence’s managing executive, says this upgrade programme contract followed Tellumat’s successful completion of an extensive upgrade and enhancement of Umlindi’s antenna, transmitters and signal processing.
“We’d also maintained the SAAF’s radar systems for the last 20 years, so we have an in-depth understanding and knowledge of radar systems,” he says.
The deal was awarded by Armscor, the Acquisition organisation of the Department of Defence (DoD), to Tellumat’s Defence Division, located in Pretoria.
“In consultation with Armscor and the SA Air Force it was decided to make use of commercial off-the-shelf processing and display equipment, to achieve a cost-effective solution with a low-cost future upgrade path,” he explains.
The contract, known as the Processor and Technical Display Programme, covered the replacement of the old data processors and technical monitor workstations in the SAAF’s “Processing and Control” cabins, where the equipment is housed.
“It involved installation of high power Intel-based commercial computers with specialised interfaces, rack-mounted into purpose-built 19-inch metal frameworks,” Meintjes explains. “LCD displays ranging from 17-inch to 24-inch display sizes were installed. The processors run on Microsoft Windows, with custom-written software developed by Tellumat, and a converged TCP-IP network completed the project.”
He adds that before installation of the equipment could commence, Tellumat, with the use of professional contractors, had to strip the cabins of superfluous equipment, restore them and hand them back in controlled fashion to the SAAF. Cabins also had to be overhauled one after the other, to ensure that air defence operations were not disrupted. But this approach was only used with the first cabin. The rest of the cabins were done internally by the SAAF to save funds.
Following refurbishment and installation, the newly installed and legacy equipment were integrated into an operational radar sensor facility. System acceptance tests were done after systems integration, to ensure full functionality of the system. The system was then handed back in the new build-state, against the approved specification and he was pleased to say “ahead of schedule”.
Meintjes says Tellumat also made provision for effective maintenance of the system with the design and manufacture of a ‘test bench’, required for depot-level maintenance and support. To further enhance the ease of maintenance and operation of the system, an option to remotely manage all radar control and built-in test equipment functions, for example to a sector control centre, is now also a possibility.
Meintjes says all the work was carried out at the Tellumat Radar Maintenance Depot facility in Pretoria. The depot forms part of Tellumat’s existing maintenance contract with the Air Force. It is manned by 15 experienced Tellumat radar technicians and engineers.
All new software was certified according to procedures defined by the DO-278 Standard, bestowed by the SAAF- and Armscor-owned certification authority, RTCA. Tellumat Defence Division is the first South African Company to have achieved this formal software certification for ground systems.