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Latest news on the defence and aerospace sector.

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    South African privately-held defence group Paramount believes that the local defence industry needs to consolidate and cooperate to compete successfully in the increasingly competitive international market. “Paramount is always open to cooperation,” affirmed group Chairperson Ivor Ichikowitz on Thursday. “If we are able to present a consolidated ‘SA Inc.’ face we can compete with the big [global] players. We have the capabilities, we have the flexibility.” He was speaking at a recent press briefing at which he confirmed what had long been suspected – that Paramount would be taking over troubled local aerospace and defence company Advanced Technologies & Engineering, better known as ATE. The takeover came into effect on June 10 and ATE now trades as Paramount Advanced Technologies.

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    The importance to South Africa of the country’s defence industry was asserted by the Secretary for Defence and Military Veterans, Dr Sam Gulube, on Thursday. “South Africa requires an effective defence capability which includes an effective defence industry,” he said. (In South Africa, the Secretary of Defence and Military Veterans heads the civilian Defence Secretariat within the Department of Defence.) “A vital, a focused and thus a successful defence industry is a major asset for our country,” he affirmed, highlighting its role, for example, in supporting the country’s foreign policy, especially at the regional and continental levels, as well as its role in helping achieve the government’s economic and developmental objectives. “As the DoD [Department of Defence], we understand that we need urgently to stimulate the defence industry in this country.” He stated that orders for new defence systems would be in line with the national security priorities. These are – first, border security; second, antipiracy and maritime security; third, peacekeeping (with the United Nations and African Union); and fourth, the protection of South Africa’s people and resources.

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    South African armoured mine protected vehicle manufacturer DCD Protected Mobility believes that there needs to be greater cooperation within the local defence industry and between the industry and the government. The company is part of the DCD Group. “Due to the global economic downturn and increasing competition, challenges lie ahead,” stated company GM Andrew Mears on Thursday. “We need to revive ‘Brand SA’. Not a single company is going to achieve this on its own. We’re going to have to work together.” “This is likely to result in some sort of consolidation in the local industry,” he observed. His comments were echoed by those of DCD Group MD Rob King, who noted that skills development was one area in which there needed to be greater cooperation within the local defence industry. “We’ve [DCD] invested over R23-million a year on skills,” reported King. “It is showing results.”

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    “It is the year of the A400M,” enthused Airbus Military President and CEO Domingo Ureña during his company’s 2013 Trade Media Briefing (TMB) at the end of May.

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    The importance to South Africa of the country’s defence industry was recently asserted by the Secretary for Defence and Military Veterans, Dr Sam Gulube. “South Africa requires an effective defence capability which includes an effective defence industry,” he said. (In South Africa, the Secretary of Defence and Military Veterans heads the civilian Defence Secretariat within the Department of Defence.)

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    South African armoured mine protected vehicle manufacturer DCD Protected Mobility (part of the DCD Group) believes that opportunities still exist in international markets “There are opportunities. They are relatively small – large orders will be few and far between,” states DCD Protected Mobility GM Andrew Mears. “But there is sufficient business to keep you going, providing you work with the customer.”

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    South African defence company Saab Grintek Defence, with its Swedish parent group, Saab, is actively seeking a partner to help finish the development of its cutting edge Land Electronic Defence System (Leds) 150 self-defence system for armoured vehicles. Leds 150 is an active defence system. That is, it detects incoming anti armour missiles and rockets and launches a small interceptor missile that destroys the incoming weapons.

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    Given the current, and likely future, strategic circumstances in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa urgently needs to re-equip its Special Forces and acquire air transportable light armoured vehicles for its army, defence analyst Helmoed Heitmann told Engineering News Online on Wednesday. "The immediate urgency is the Special Forces," he affirmed. "We need to expand the Special Forces. We need dedicated vehicles for them, better than the [current Jeep-like] Hornet. And we need dedicated aircraft and helicopters for them, with dedicated crews."

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    European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Military does not see its home continent as its major market in the coming years. “Europe will not be the driver of our sales and the driver of our strategy in the years to come,” company head of light and medium aircraft and derivatives programmes Rafael Tentor has affirmed. “This is because of the prospects for European economies and defence spending. There are shrinking military budgets in Europe and the [United] States. The rest of the world is booming. In the rest of the world there are plenty of opportunities.”

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    Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has instructed the board of State-owned defence industrial group Denel to develop a strategy to increase its sales in Africa. He pointed out that the government wanted Denel to be a global player, including supplying South Africa and Africa.

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    The Department of Science and Technology (DST) recently revealed that it is buying the intellectual property (IP) and tangible assets of insolvent South African microsatellite company Sun Space and Information Systems (SunSpace) for R55-million. The majority of the company’s creditors accepted the DST’s offer, which had been recommended in the business rescue plan drawn up by a practitioner who had been appointed by the SunSpace board. Their decision has been welcomed by Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom. The amount offered by the DST was based on an independent evaluation of the value of the company’s IP and tangible assets.

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    Diesel engine and gas energy systems supplier MTU South Africa celebrated its 1 500th engine delivery to special-purpose military vehicle and service supplier DCD Protected Mobility, a division of the DCD industrial group, for its Husky project.

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    Denel Aviation on Thursday handed the last of 11 operation-ready Rooivalk helicopters over to the South African Air Force (SAAF). Denel Aviation CEO Mike Kgobe said the acceptance of the locally developed combat support helicopter marked the culmination of a 26-year partnership between the SAAF and Denel. 

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    The State-owned Denel defence industrial group announced on Thursday that it had reached a new agreement with the South African Air Force (SAAF) to replace the current Denel Personnel Solutions/Aero Manpower Group (DPS/AMG) contract, which expires at the end of March. The new arrangement will see the SAAF retain the services of 139 of the 523 aircraft specialists currently employed under the DPS/AMG contract. The remaining 384 workers (or 73.4% of the skilled workforce) will lose their jobs. DPS/AMG falls under aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul company Denel Aviation. DPS has provided skilled maintenance personnel to the SAAF under the AMG contract since 1986.

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    South African defence company BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa, part of the global BAE Systems group, recently launched a significantly upgraded manned turret for light armoured and mine protected vehicles. Designated the Overhead Manned Turret (OMT), it has been developed from the company’s previous and manually-operated Overhead Manual Turret, which had been unveiled about two years ago. Both these turrets have been developed by the company’s Dynamics division.

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    The Brazilian subsidiary of South African missile and unmanned air vehicle company, Denel Dynamics, Denel do Brasil, will soon complete a report into the potential Brazilian supply chain for the manufacture of the A-Darter infrared (IR) homing air-to-air missile (AAM) in the South American country. Late last year the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira – FAB) awarded Denel do Brasil a 1.4-million reais (about R6.5-million) contract to carry out a review of Brazilian companies which had the capability to, or interest in, take part in the programme.

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    South African State-owned aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company Denel Aviation officially inaugurated its new MRO Centre for Russian Mil Mi-8 and Mi-17-family helicopters on Tuesday evening. The new service centre is a joint initiative with Russian Helicopters, the State-owned Russian company that incorporates the world-renowned Mil and Kamov brands. “This facility will be the only one of its kind in Africa,” highlighted Denel group CEO Riaz Saloojee. “I am confident that it will become a centre of excellence. This beginning can only bode well for both partners. At Denel we are determined to pursue these and other opportunities to grow our business.” “We are looking forward to a stronger relationship with Russian Helicopters and we look forward to exploring further opportunities in future,” affirmed Denel board chairperson Zoli Kunene. “Today’s historical launch of Denel Aviation as an MRO centre for Russian Helicopters is the result of joint planning between our two companies,” reported Denel Aviation CEO Mike Kgobe. “I am convinced this MRO centre is symbolic of a wider relationship between our two countries.”

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    US aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin, which supplied the South African Air Force (SAAF) with its current strategic transport aircraft, the C-130BZ Hercules, believes that these need to be replaced within the next seven years. This year is the 50th anniversary of start of C-130BZ operations by the SAAF. (It is also the 100th birthday of Lockheed Martin.)

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    South African State-owned missile and unmanned air vehicle company Denel Dynamics announced on Monday that the Al Tariq precision-guided munition (PGM), developed by Tawazun Dynamics, its joint venture with United Arab Emirates company Tawazun Holdings, had successfully executed a difficult mission profile during a flight test evaluation. This test saw the weapon used against a laser-designated target. It effectively scored a direct hit (the “miss distance” was less than half-a-metre). In the test, the Al Tariq was launched off the track of the target and was programmed to, during its terminal phase, enter the target area from a different direction. “This implies the missile had to perform a dog-leg manoeuvre and the flight path had to be calculated dynamically ‘on the fly’,” said Al Tariq programme manager Coenie Loock. This mission profile was selected to provide a thorough test of the PGM.

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    outh Africa today spends about 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence, in comparison to the global average figure of 2.5%, reported auditing and consultancy firm Deloitte on Tuesday. This low level of defence spending is exemplified by the fact that the South African Air Force has placed 12 of its 26 Gripen fighters in long-term storage. In the 1980s, defence expenditure absorbed 4% of the country’s GDP. “There are various reasons for this reduction in defence spending including the cost of operations versus budget allocations,” said Deloitte aerospace and defence leader Igna Gray. “South Africa, despite the reduction in spend is still considered a regional military power in Africa with a focus on peacekeeping on the continent and in neighbouring countries.” “Global military expenditure as a percentage of GDP in 2011, showed that Saudi Arabia had the highest spend at 8.4%, followed by Israel (6.8%) and then the US (4.7%),” she reported. “Placing South Africa on the list would see it being compared to Japan, which is 17th on the list at 1% – the same as South Africa.”

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