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Latest news on the defence and aerospace sector.

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    The African Union will conduct a field training exercise in the Northern Cape later this month to test the state of readiness of the continental peacekeeping force. The African Standby Force’s rapid deployment capability would also be evaluated, said Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, chief of joint operations for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), in a statement.

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    The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has successfully developed a counter-improvised explosive device (IED) shaped charge protection system for vehicles. This was reported on Thursday at the CSIR Conference in Pretoria by Rayeesa Ahmed, research group leader for protection and survivability systems. The project was to develop a system that would provide protection against a medium-sized explosively-formed projectile (EFP) IED threat. EFPs, also called explosively-formed penetrators, are the IED equivalent of shaped charges in regular munitions. Both operate on the same principle of focusing the power of an explosion. A metal liner, usually cone- or dish-shaped, is placed in front of the explosive charge and when the explosive is detonated this liner focuses the explosion and becomes a metal "slug" that is shot at the target at a very high velocity. Because the energy of the explosion is focused, an IED that produces an EFP can do much greater damage to an armoured vehicle than one that just produces blast effects.

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    The most important technology for unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) operating in non-segregated airspace (in which manned and even civilian aircraft would be encountered) is "sense and avoid" technology. This would allow the UAV to detect and avoid other aircraft. So pointed out Airbus Defence and Space VP and head of disruptive innovation Jan van Toor at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's fifth conference, in Pretoria, on Friday. (Airbus Defence and Space is a part of the Airbus Group and a sister company to airliner manufacturer Airbus.) Airbus generally divides UAVs into five groups. Tactical UAVs, medium altitude and long endurance (MALE) UAVs, high-altitude and long endurance (known as HALE) UAVs, weaponised MALE UAVs (not able to operate in defended airspace) and long range combat UAVs (or unmanned combat air vehicles – UCAVs – which are able to operate in defended airspace).

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    As a girl in the village of Lady Frere, Zimasa Mabela’s life revolved around school, and fetching firewood and water from the river. The country’s first black female navy commander says she only saw the sea for the first time when she was 18.

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    Acting Denel Group CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe has assured that the State-owned defence industrial group will not be changing its strategy. He was giving the opening address at the group’s recent 2015 Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference in Pretoria.

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    Exhibition organiser Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery last month announced the official launch of Machine Tools Africa 2017, an upcoming trade conference and exhibition that is expected to be the biggest Africa-based trade expo of its kind. The exhibition will be held at the Johannesburg Expo Centre, in Nasrec, from May 9 to 12, 2017 in Halls 6 and 7, with the potential of expanding into additional halls.

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    South Africa's defence procurement, disposals and research and development agency Armscor is busy changing its relationship with the South African Defence industry, Armscor CEO Kevin Wakeford has affirmed. It is moving from being prescriptive to industry to being collaborative with industry. "Industry is a client [of Armscor]," he asserted. "We have to come to the party!"

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    South African businesses have been encouraged to increase their participation in the United Nations (UN) procurement processes. UN Procurement Division Field Procurement Service Chief Sean Purcell pointed out recently that the amount of goods purchased by the UN from South African companies declined from 2009 to 2012, increased in 2013 and decreased again in 2014.

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    South African private sector defence group Paramount signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Spanish State-owned shipbuilder Navantia, in Pretoria, on Friday. This new MoU builds on a previous agreement signed between the two companies at the beginning of this year. "This is another important milestone in our mutual cooperation," stated Paramount executive director Eric Ichikowitz. "It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this agreement."

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    Major European aerospace enterprise, the Airbus Group, is working on innovations across the breadth of its activities, which include airliners, defence and space activities and helicopters. Some of these activities were recently highlighted by Airbus Defence and Space VP and Head of Disruptive Innovation Jan van Toor. He was talking at the Fifth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Conference in Pretoria. (Airbus Defence and Space is one of the Airbus Group companies and a sister business to airliner manufacturer Airbus.)

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  • 11/01/15--19:25: Some catching up needed
  • Over the years, I have been to quite a few defence technology and industry conferences in South Africa. Invariably, they include lots of fascinating presentations and show just how impressive and high-tech the South African defence industry is. It certain areas, South Africa is one of only a tiny number of countries to possess such capabilities. Guided missiles and other precision guided munitions (air to air, surface to air, anti-tank, air to surface) are two such areas.

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    Small South African defence company Twiga Services has recently started sea trials with its latest product, an 8.5 m long military patrol boat. Manufactured out of high density polyethylene (better known as HDPE) it is designated the Rugged 850 Military Patrol Boat (MPB). “The Rugged 850 MPB is designed for use on the Great Lakes of East Africa and the rivers of sub-Saharan Africa,” reports company CEO Brigadier General (retired) Damian de Lange. “We also have a Rugged 900 MPB, which has a bow ramp for marines, which was designed for riverine operations in South America.”

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    Security incidents, natural disasters and cybercrime often transcend national boundaries, and sharing information helps to improve assistance, reaction speed and countermeasures to these events, as well as coordination among States, says international security cooperation body Interpol digital crime investigative support coordinator Bradley Marden. Specifically, the network of States and partner organisations – including major software and cybersecurity firms – enable Interpol to verify the relevance and validity of information rapidly, which it then shares with members and the relevant parties to take action.

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    Germany-based Airbus DS Electronics and Border Security, currently a business unit of Airbus Defence and Space (itself part of Airbus Group) wants to expand its activities in South Africa. The entity has its biggest foreign operation in South Africa. "Our second biggest site is in South Africa," highlighted company media relations senior manager Lothar Belz. "It's our second biggest footprint and of course we want to grow it.” The South African operation is composed of two entities: Airbus Defence and Space (DS) Optronics South Africa (SA) and GEW Technologies (Tech – previously Grintek Ewation). Both companies have local shareholders. Denel owns 30% of Airbus DS Optronics SA, while the Kunene Finance Company holds 25% of GEW Tech. Both South African operations have achieved Level 4 black economic empowerment.

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    The changing and deteriorating international situation is having a clear impact on European defence enterprise Airbus Defence and Space, company military aircraft sales head Antonio Rodriguez Barberan reported at its recent Trade Media Briefing (TMB). "There are conflicts," he pointed out. "There are conflicts in the Middle East, there are conflicts in Africa, there is fear of conflict in Asia." "The behaviour of our customers is changing," he reported. They want aircraft they have ordered delivered more rapidly. "This is taking us to the limit of our capacity. We are [also] facing huge pressure from the customers that we maintain reliability and mission readiness at over 90%." (The company provides maintenance and other support services – Full In-Service Support – to a large and increasing number of its customers.) "Customers don't want solutions in 2018, they want to have solutions tomorrow." More and more of the company's products are seeing real operational service. "Lots of C295s are doing real tactical missions in the Sahel," he cited. Others are carrying out maritime surveillance missions over the Mediterranean. Even though the A400M is just entering service, it is also being committed to operations. "Some are doing real missions. Out of five air forces [which have received A400Ms], at least two are doing real operational missions with aircraft just delivered." The A330 Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT) is also actively supporting combat missions in the Middle East.

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    Airbus Defence and Space regards its C295 light/medium transport and maritime patrol aircraft as the best product in its range to meet the needs of the South African Air Force (SAAF) in these areas. The company has also been working on surveillance versions of its A320 single-aisle airliner. "Our initial approach to South Africa is for a combined fleet of C295s to replace the CN235, C212 and turbo-Dakotas for transport and for maritime patrol," company intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) light and medium transport and unmanned air vehicle marketing head Fernando Ciria told Engineering News Online at the recent Airbus Defence and Space Trade Media Briefing (TMB). The C212 is a light transport currently operated by the SAAF, which previously also operated a single CN235 light/medium transport (both of which were developed by a precursor company to Airbus Defence and Space). The SAAF also operates C-47 Dakotas, re-engined with turboprop motors, in both the light/medium transport and maritime surveillance roles. "I consider [that] the C295 is perfect for operations in South Africa,” he affirmed.

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    European aerospace company Airbus Defence and Space has reported continuing market success. "We keep growing not only the number of planes [on order] but the number of our customers and the number of countries," highlighted company military aircraft sales head Antonio Rodriguez Barberan at its recent Trade Media Briefing (TMB). "We are almost everywhere,” he pointed out. “Some years ago we decided to create a policy of establishing partnerships with [customer] countries [or establish local subsidiaries]. The reason for this is, of course, to sustain technical [support] services. Our future strategy is to support armies, air forces, in a way they find locally sustainable." Because of the fatal accident in May, "it has been a difficult year" for the A400M. But deliveries have continued and at least 14 will be handed over to customers this year. "Light and medium [transport aircraft] – a very successful year-and-a-half," he reported. The company won 28 orders in 2014 and 15 more in 2015 so far.

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    Airbus Defence and Space: Military Aircraft has highlighted that its A330 Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT) has significant commonalities with the Airbus A330-200 commercial airliner, upon which it is based. The South African Air Force (SAAF) once operated a fleet of four Boeing 707 tankers, which were also used as transports, but these were retired without replacement some eight years ago. It is widely held that, to effectively support the country's policies in Africa, the SAAF needs both an air-to-air refuelling tanker and a strategic transport aircraft. "The A330 MRTT could take the South African Air Forces's long range interventions and peace keeping operations support to the next level," affirmed company Military Affairs head Didier Vernet.

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    Additive layer manufacturing, better known as 3D printing,  is playing an important role in South Africa's Ahrlac armed reconnaissance and light aircraft project. "3-D printing has transformed the Ahrlac programme," Ahrlac programme manager Paul Potgieter (Junior) told Engineering News Online on Wednesday. "Three-D printing suits aviation manufacturing very well," he explained. "In general, aviation manufacturing is not very high volume, but the parts are very complex. In 3D printing, complex parts can be made in one go, instead of being composed of many smaller parts put together. It will transform aviation manufacturing."

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    While the local defence industry is dominated by relatively large companies, there are also smaller companies succeeding in the sector.

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