New airborne sensor draws its first customer

Paris Air Show » 2007
June 14, 2007, 9:22 AM

Within a month of celebrating inward investment from Germany, Denel Optronics received a launch order from the South African Air Force (SAAF) to supply its Argos 410-Z military airborne observation system. The South African firm’s Argos 410-Z sensor pods will equip SAAF Cessna Caravans, enhancing and expanding the aircraft’s ability to perform long-range search-and-rescue, surveillance, reconnaissance and other observations missions.Carl Zeiss Optronics signed an agreement with Denel in March this year to acquire a majority stake in Denel Optronics as part of the South African company’s restructuring process. The German company initially took a 70-percent share in the new South African entity, with Denel retaining the other 30 percent. In addition to fresh capital, Carl Zeiss Optronics lends its expertise as a leading manufacturer of high-tech optical and electro-optical products.The Argos 410-Z sensor configuration includes the latest generation Carl Zeiss Optronics mid-wave Attica forward-looking infrared thermal imager, a daylight TV camera with powerful zoom lens, eye-safe laser rangefinder, an autotracker and mission awareness positioning system (MAPS). The MAPS function provides the system operator with GPS coordinates of objects of interest, which it achieves with a high-accuracy integrated inertial measurement unit.Denel Optronics had been showcasing its Argos 410-Z at several major air and defense shows, notably ILA in Berlin, Farnborough in the UK and Eurosatory in Paris, as well as at the Africa Aerospace & Defence event in Cape Town, South Africa. Building on the success of the Leo airborne sensor pods and earlier Argos models, more than 100 of which have been produced, the latest development attracted interest from international aircraft manufacturers, systems houses and military customers looking to retrofit their systems.Denel builds the Argos 410-Z to military specifications and claims that it offers outstanding day and night image quality. At its heart is the Carl Zeiss Optronics Attica 640 x 512 thermal imager that generates clear, focused images. The new unit offers four fields of view and advanced image processing features, including edge enhancement, local adaptive dynamic compression and electronic zoom. According to the manufacturer, it provides exceptional detection, recognition and identification ranges.Denel Optronics is actively engaged with potential export customers for the Argos 410-Z and Carl Zeiss Optronics recently announced that it will become the stronghold for sensor supply and support for European customers. As a result, both military and civilian customers across Europe will benefit from accelerated turnaround times, customer support and on-the-spot service.|“This move will address the current logistic shortfall where European OEMs and end-users of all airborne sensor systems need to work with teams in the U.S. or elsewhere outside Europe,” noted Hans-Juergen Wiemer, director airborne sensor systems for Carl Zeiss Optronics. “We predict the link with Denel will provide a major boost to activity in European and other international markets.”   

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