SA Denel Optronics /Zeiss win R200 Mn BAE Systems Contract for Eurofighter-Typhoon Head-Tracker System (HTS)
Carl Zeiss Optronics GmbH agreed to acquire a majority stake (70%) in South African based Denel Optronics in March 2007 - which will in future trade as Carl Zeiss Optronics (Pty) Ltd.,
Denel Optronics is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Denel Group which is supported by the South African Government through the Ministry of Public Enterprises. The sale, part of Denel CE Shaun Liebenberg's (he is also South Africa’s Minister of Public Enterprises), ongoing effort to restructure the "parastatal" or state owned enterprise, is part of a strategy to tie the company's niche strengths to global players in the relevant industry segments, a move he sees as necessary for Denel's survival in the defence business.
Saab of Sweden in June 2006 took a 20% stake in Denel Aviation's aerostructures unit and undertook to provide an “investment of R66 million over the first two years, ongoing skills and technology transfers, as well as management and marketing access”. the newly structured company began operations with about 600 staff from Denel Aviation and is being led through the transformation process by a team of specialists from Saab Aerostructures in Sweden.
Denel announced another loss-making financial year 2005/6 , posting a deficit of R1.3 billion on gross revenue of R2.7 billion. It lost R1.5 billion the year before.
Denel Optronics / Carl Zeiss Optronics (Pty) Ltd., have subsequently (May 31st 2007) been awarded a production order for 4/5 year contract for 450 optical helmet tracker systems (HTS) for the Eurofighter-Typhoon fighter aircraft worth R200 Mn (£14.5 Mn) by BAE Systems which have been wholly developed in South Africa.
This is another contract in the Defence Industrial Participation programme with South Africa as a result of their decision to modernise their air force with 24 BAE Hawk trainer (Ho.Ho.Ho.) and 27 Saab Gripen fighters.
These HST systems are the equivalent of the head Mounted Display systems (HMD) Developed by Vision Systems International (VSI), a joint venture between EFW Inc., a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ: ESLT Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) : ESLT), and Rockwell Collins (NYSE: COL), which was formed in 1996 to develop fixed wing helmet mounted display (HMD) systems.
These HMD's / HST's are designed to designate and exploit the pilot’s LOS (Line Of Sight) for the purpose of slaving the aircraft sensors and systems and thus enabling the pilot to achieve lock-on of sensors, avionics systems and missiles, simply by looking at the target.
The unique Denel designed optical HTS, continuously monitors the position of the pilot's head and where he is looking. In this manner it is able to aim the aircraft's weapons, reconnaissance and self-protection systems towards 'points of interest' at which the pilot is looking.
In February this year, BAE Systems placed a US$3.4 million (approximately
R24 million) order with Denel Optronics to complete the industrialisation of the optical head tracker system. Denel claim evaluations (unstated authors) have shown the system to be superior to any similar available in the world.
Pioneers of head-tracking systems, Denel Optronics, have been designing and producing operational pilot helmet-mounted sighting and tracking systems in the early 1970s. They claim that evaluations have shown the system to be superior to any similar available in the world.
This latest system for the much delayed and still not fully operational Eurofighter-Typhoon (see cockpit pic)has 3 cockpit sensors - essentially tiny video cameras - that detect a series of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) embedded in the pilot's helmet. This data provides location angle and position of the pilot's head to project the display of vital symbology on the pilot's helmet-mounted display of vital flight, instrumentation, navigation and mission data together with weapons and counter-measures status.
Consequently the pilot never has to take his eyes "off the road" and is fed with real time information without the need for head movement to examine display panels - essential when flying high-speed low-level (nap-of-the-earth) missions in the day or at night.
The head tracker data can also drive external sensors and missile seekers keeping them aligned with the pilot's line of sight.
Which will be fine if they can get the damn plane to fly with a full missile load and perform the low level high speed aerobatics, take off and land under the fly by wire system 100% of the time.