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Latest news on the defence and aerospace sector.

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    The Airbus Group (parent of Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space and Airbus Helicopters) is committed to help develop aeronautical industries in Africa, because it believes that this makes good business sense. For the Group, Africa is defined as sub-Saharan Africa plus Moroco (with Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria grouped with the Middle East). "We're here [Africa] to do business, but we want to support the African aeronautical industry, so that it will support our business, in the next decade," Airbus Group International VP Africa Vincent Larnicol told Engineering News at the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2016 exhibition. "We want to support Africa, and hopefully, this means business for us."

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    Aircraft manufacturer Boeing and technology company Microsoft announced earlier this month an agreement to build a cloud-based platform for Boeing’s portfolio of commercial aviation analytics tools.

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    British science and high-technology company QinetiQ used this year’s recent Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition to investigate the local market. QinetiQ is a technology development, technology services and niche manufacturing company predominantly but not exclusively operating in the defence, security and aerospace sectors. “We came to AAD to explore the potential for how our products and services match South African requirements, with particular interest in partnering, which is essential for mutual success,” explained QinetiQ Group Director: International Marketing Richard Mears. “We also interacted with other African delegations as well as those from further afield.”

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    The South African-designed, -developed and -built Advanced, High-performance, Reconnaissance, Light Aircraft (Ahrlac) is due to enter line production in early 2017, with the construction of a purpose-built factory at Wonderboom Airport, north of Pretoria.

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    Large orders from the US government for Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transport and multimission aircraft are helping the manufacturer keep down the acquisition costs for the aircraft for all customers. At the end of last year, Washington placed a multi year contract for 78 C-130Js, plus options, of which seven have so far been exercised, taking the order to 85 so far. "This gives economies of scale, big time," Lockheed Martin International VP Business Development, Air Mobility and Maritime Missions Rich Johnston told Engineering News at the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2016 exhibition. "The price of a C-130J has stabilised over the past few years. And we're continually driving costs out of the programme."

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    South African grenade, artillery ammunition, rocket propellant and warhead manufacturer Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) hopes to conclude more than one new order before the end of this year. “This includes a significant export contract, about which we cannot reveal any details yet,” says RDM CEO Norbert Schulze. “I’m very confident that we will win this major order.”

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    In the 70 years since the South African Air Force (SAAF) first flew a jet fighter, the country has gone from importing complete aircraft with no technology transfer, to developing a highly sophisticated and capable local industry capable of adapting advanced aircraft to local conditions and designing and producing complex systems and subsystems and advanced weapons for them. This was highlighted on Thursday at the International Aerospace Symposium of South Africa (IASSA) by Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) contract research and development (R&D) manager Major-General Des Barker SAAF (retired). The first jet fighter flown by the SAAF was a British Gloster Meteor F.3, which arrived in the country in 1946. A single aircraft, it was effectively loaned to the SAAF, which flew it until 1949. However, the country chose to buy the simpler and cheaper De Havilland Vampire jet fighter-bomber, also a British design, the first of which was delivered in 1950. Both these types had straight wings.

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    Somerset West-based aircraft and automotive component manufacturer AAT Composites is increasing its reach into the aerospace component industry by producing specialist parts that are lighter and less costly than conventional metal or plastic parts.

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    One of the projects currently being developed by the Aeronautics Competency of the Defence, Peace, Safety and Security unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a Modular Transonic Research Platform (MTRP). A preliminary feasibility study has been completed and is now being studied. "The MTRP is primarily aimed at being a research vehicle," explained postgraduate student at the CSIR Radeshan Moodley. "The aim is to eventually replace the instrumented Hawk [currently used in South Africa] as a primary test platform." The plan is that the new design will be an unmanned air vehicle (UAV).

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    South Africa’s defence acquisition, disposals and research and development agency Armscor on Tuesday announced that it had cancelled the tender “for the lease of an intercontinental aircraft” for the South African Air Force. This probably refers to the project to obtain a new Presidential VIP aircraft. The tender (ETEL/2016/130) was cancelled because none of the bidders were able to meet all the requirements set out by Armscor. “The decision to cancel the tender was not an easy one to take considering that we had to cancel the previous one due to a no successful bid,” stated Armscor CEO Kevin Wakeford. However, the requirement for an intercontinental aircraft does not seem to have been cancelled. “It’s back to the drawing board for us, and we will maintain our unwavering insistence on total compliance in every aspect of the requirements,” he assured. “The Department of Defence and Military Veterans expects no less from us.”

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    In the 70 years since the South African Air Force (SAAF) first flew a jet fighter, the country has gone from importing complete aircraft with no technology transfer, to developing a highly sophisticated and capable local industry capable of adapting advanced aircraft to local conditions and designing and producing complex systems and subsystems and advanced weapons for them. This was highlighted at the recent International Aerospace Symposium of South Africa (IASSA) by Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Contract Research and Development (R&D) Manager Major-General Des Barker SAAF (retired).

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    One of the projects currently being developed by the Aeronautics Competency of the Defence, Peace, Safety and Security unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a Modular Transonic Research Platform (MTRP). A preliminary feasibility study has been completed and is now being studied.

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    South Africa’s defence acquisition, disposals and research and development agency Armscor has announced that it had cancelled the tender “for the lease of an intercontinental aircraft” for the South African Air Force (SAAF). This probably refers to the project to obtain a new Presidential VIP aircraft.

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    A South African nanosatellite will be launched into space from the International Space Station (ISS) during the first quarter of next year, as part of an international research project under the European Commission’s Seventh (Research) Framework Programme (better known as FP7). The project is designated QB50. The project will see 40 nanosatellites – often popularly called CubeSats – launched from the ISS to gather data on the lower thermosphere. The thermosphere is a 513 km thick region of extremely thin atmosphere above the Earth, in which the ISS and low Earth orbit satellites are to be found. The QB50 nanosatellites will operate for six to 18 months at altitudes between 200 km and 380 km above the Earth. The South African nanosatellite is named nSight1 and its development has been overseen by local private-sector company SCS Aerospace Group. “We are proud not only to be part of the QB50 project, but especially of the fact that it presents the opportunity to showcase South Africa’s ability in the space industry,” affirmed SCS Aerospace Chairman Dr Sias Mostert. “Almost all the systems and components on this satellite were manufactured and assembled within six months with South African partners.”

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    It is generally, if not universally, accepted, that the height of flying skill is embodied in the test pilot and the apex of air engineering ability in the flight test engineer. Despite huge advances in computer modelling and simulation, test pilots and flight test engineers still have a crucial role in aviation/aerospace research and development (R&D), for not everything can be modelled and certainty can only be obtained by real-life test flights. Test pilots and flight test engineers, however, are not and have never been, daredevils. They would not live long if they were. Rather, they display a combination of first-class flying skills, careful preparation, thorough planning and highly analytical minds – in a phrase, supreme aviation professionalism.

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    Air passenger numbers climbed steady year-on-year in the third quarter of 2016, according to Airports Company South Africa’s (ACSA’s) latest Aviation Barometer for the three months to September 30. ACSA recorded a 4.4% year-on-year increase in total arrivals and departures, compared with the third-quarter in 2015. This increase included a total of 4.98-million arrivals and 4.77-million departures across the group’s network of airports.

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    The Department of Defence and its acquisition vehicle Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) has released a draft of the Defence Sector Charter for public comment. The charter aims to accelerate black-economic empowerment in the defence industry over three years, setting an ownership target of 25% in the first year, 30% in the second year, and 35% by the third year. Black female ownership should amount to 10% in the first and second year, and 15% by the third year.

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    Arms deal critic Terry Crawford-Browne has lost his Constitutional Court bid to have the arms deal commission, which found no evidence of corruption, set aside. The Constitutional Court ruled that his application is not in the interest of justice.

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    A South African nanosatellite will be launched into space from the International Space Station (ISS) during the first quarter of next year, as part of an international research project under the European Commission’s Seventh (Research) Framework Programme (better known as FP7). The project is designated QB50.

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    South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel announced on Wednesday that extensive testing of the Denel Dynamics Umkhonto (“Spear”, in English) naval surface-to-air missile, for an export customer, will take place early next year. The Umkhonto forms part of the armament of two German-designed and -built Meko frigates being acquired by the customer navy. The first of these ships, fitted with the Umkhonto, has already been delivered. The second completed its final sea acceptance trials in October.

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