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Latest news on the defence and aerospace sector.

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    Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) will invest R550-million over the next three years to modernise its production facilities to the latest standards, introduce state-of-the-art processes and to increase its capacity, company CEO Norbert Schulze informed Engineering News Online. “We will likely recruit another 200 workers,” he also said. RDM is 51%-owned by Germany’s Rheinmetall AG and 49% by South Africa’s Denel SOC, both of which are defence industrial groups (although Rheinmetall is also active in the automotive components sector). Rheinmetall is a private sector enterprise and Denel is State-owned.

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    South African private-sector defence company Rheinmetall Defence Munition (RDM) is enjoying strong growth in its business, which is dominated by exports. “Things are going exceptionally good for RDM,” company CEO Norbert Schulze told Engineering News Online. “Since 2016, we have been growing at 20% a year. Under our plans, this will continue until 2020. Most of this is export business.” Only about 18% of the company’s business is local, with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) accounting for 6% of total business, Denel for 9% and the other 3% being attributed to civilian markets. “But the SANDF business is important because it gives us the reputational base that allows us to win exports,” he explained.

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    South African ports are projected to receive an injection of almost R44.4-billion over the coming five years from State-owned logistics operator Transnet, which will increase the number of oil rigs docking for maintenance and repairs in South Africa, says defence and security solutions supplier Saab Grintek Defence sub-Saharan Africa maritime marketing executive Hein van den Ende.

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    South Africa's State-owned Denel defence industrial group has exited the Denel Asia joint venture (JV) company. This was announced on by Denel acting Group CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe, addressing the recent media briefing about the company's financial results, at the group's head office in Centurion, south of Pretoria. "Since its establishment, Denel Asia has not traded due to differences of opinion with National Treasury, which have been widely covered in the media, at times based on perceptions and not fact," he stated. "The Denel Asia JV became the focus of negative attention from the media to the detriment of the Denel brand, that is both locally and internationally."

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    The state of exploration for oil and gas as well as mining is in a fix, with exploration spending having decreased by 69% in the last four years, delegates attending the South African Geophysical Association (Saga) 2017 conference have heard. Lockheed Martin business development manager Dan Di Francesco said there was scope for adopting better technologies as discovery costs had tripled in the last decade. Low commodity prices, the global economic situation and a rise in the cost of exploration had helped to push exploration into a steep decline since 2012.

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    South African defence company Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) announced on Tuesday that it was in the final phase of commissioning a new Universal Filling Facility, which will serve the needs of an international client. “We have worked with this client over the last four years to bring this world class manufacturing capability to reality,” reported RDM CEO Norbert Schulze. The facility will be able to fill various types of munitions, ranging from aircraft bombs to medium- and large-calibre shells. Its establishment in the client’s country is being directed and overseen by RDM engineers and artisans, who are active on the site. “This Greenfields project was designed, manufactured and fully tested at RDM facilities in South Africa prior to dispatch,” he highlighted. “It is one of 39 similar facilities RDM has produced worldwide. This plant engineering competence within RDM has provided customers on all major continents with a turnkey solution in their quest for autonomy.”

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    Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) will invest R550-million over the next three years to modernise its production facilities to the latest standards, introduce state-of-the-art processes and to increase its capacity, company CEO Norbert Schulze tells “Engineering News”. “We will likely recruit another 200 workers.” The company is enjoying strong growth in its business, which is dominated by exports. “Things are going exceptionally good for RDM. Since 2016, we have been growing at 20% a year. Under our plans, this will continue until 2020. Most of this is export business.”

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    South African defence industrial group Denel has a clear plan for the future of Turbomeca Africa (TMA), which it is in the process of buying off Safran Helicopter Engines (Safran HE), part of France’s Safran S/A aeroengines group. Hitherto, TMA (originally established in 2002) was a joint venture between Denel and Safran HE, the French business holding 51% and the South African group 49%. “Our takeover is still subject to final approvals,” Denel Group Chief Strategy Officer Theo Kleynhans tells ...

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    Following authorisation by the South African Civil Aviation Authority, Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa (AHZA) has now released its Fleetkeeper product to the South African market. Fleetkeeper is an electronic flight folio and electronic technical logbook. South Africa is one of the the first countries in the world to approve the product, the others being France, the Philippines and Singapore.

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    Applications that can benefit from using drones are increasing worldwide, almost daily, but commercial users of drones are being scuppered by highly generalised legislation, which is difficult to understand and expensive for operators to implement. A much-contested application – and one that is illegal to undertake for the vast majority of drone operators – is using drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

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    South Africa is not planning to raid the government pension fund to bail out struggling State firms, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday. Gigaba also denied reports that he told a Cosatu union meeting that indebted State-owned entities needed R100-billion ($7.50-billion) to survive.

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    The South African defence sector needs to bring home to the country the importance of defence for the technological, innovation and economic development of the country. So affirmed Armscor CEO Kevin Wakeford in his address to the fourth annual Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference in Pretoria on Thursday. Armscor is the Department of Defence's acquisitions, disposals and research and development agency. "We are confronted with a fiscal crunch: a R5-billion reduction in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, a budget that should actually grow," he highlighted. Growth is needed to fulfill the requirements of the Parliament-approved Defence Review. "Truth be told, there is not a cent available to implement the Defence Review."

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    Local orders are key to winning export contracts in the defence sector, Denel Land Systems (DLS) CEO Stephan Burger affirmed at the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference in Pretoria on Thursday. He cited the case of the order his company received for turrets for the Malaysian Army's new armoured fighting vehicle, the AV8. These turrets were developed as part of the South African Army's Project Hoefyster ("Horseshoe") to acquire a new infantry fighting vehicle. The resulting vehicle is called the Badger, and, although the hull is based upon a Finnish design (the Patria AMV), the different types of turret that will equip the five different variants of the vehicle, and the weapons they carry, are South African designs. The entire Badger vehicle and most of its systems are made in South Africa.

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    African budget airline Fastjet Plc said on Friday it would raise not less than $44 million, in part through a placing, to fund expansion in South Africa and Mozambique. Fastjet plans an accelerated bookbuild to raise gross cash proceeds of $28 million and would sell 60 million shares to Solenta Aviation Holdings Limited to raise $16.2 million.

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    South African industry needs to find ways of adapting and using the technologies driving the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) to remain globally competitive, yet maintain and create jobs in a high-unemployment environment. So argued productONE MD Charles Anderson at the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference 2017 in Pretoria on Friday. He pointed out that the original Industrial Revolution was based on harnessing steam power, for transport, manufacturing and electricity generation. The Second Industrial Revolution was based on the invention of mass production. The Third, on electronics. The current iteration, 4.0, is based on digital technology, including the Internet, big data processing, cloud computing and additive ("3D") manufacturing.

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    South Africa's space sector has been hobbled by lack of adequate support from the South African government. This was made clear during a panel discussion on space technology at the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference 2017 in Pretoria on Friday. "Most space programmes, worldwide, have been supported by governments," pointed out Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) legal and compliance chief director for special economic zones and space affairs Nomfuneko Majaja. "It needs a strategic decision ... for a national [space] programme. Once a national programme has been decided, it must be funded."

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    South African Airways (SAA) warned on Tuesday, that its operations may be disrupted after one of the labour unions served the embattled airline with a notice of intention to embark on industrial action at its aircraft maintenance unit. This comes after the airline’s maintenance subsidiary, SAA Technical (SAAT), received a notice of the intention to embark on industrial action at the weekend from one labour union following the tabling of a wage increase proposal by SAAT.

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    Parliament’s standing committee on finance on Tuesday asked for advice on the legality of National Treasury’s R3 billion bailout to South African Airways (SAA) after the opposition submitted a letter claiming it was in breach of public finance rules. Alf Lees, the deputy finance spokesman for the Democratic Alliance, wrote that it was patently clear to Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba as early as August 24, that the loss-making airline would need R1.8 billion by the end of September to repay its loan to Citibank. Therefore, he had ample time to approach Parliament with a special appropriation bill but opted not to do so.

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    Creamer Media’s Samantha Herbst talks to journalist Keith Campbell about the overall outcome of the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference.

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    Protective workwear manufacturer Sweet-Orr is set to exhibit at this year’s A+A Trade Show exhibition – which is an important trade forum for safety, security and health at work – from October 17 to 20 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

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