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Latest news on the defence and aerospace sector.

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    European aerospace giant Airbus, British high performance power systems company Roll-Royce and German engineering and technology business Siemens have partnered to develop a hybrid-electric propulsion system for commercial aircraft which will be test flown in the near term, the three enterprises jointly announced at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London at the end of November. The flight demonstrator is designated the the E-Fan X and will probably employ the airframe of the four-engine BAE 146 regional airliner. It is expected to fly in 2020.

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    Recent proposals by the South African Police Service (Saps) to establish a national “ballistic fingerprint” database of legally owned firearms in South Africa and for this database to be used as a forensic tool in criminal investigations is a largely futile and wasteful exercise in Saps’ endeavour to link firearms to crimes, according to the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association.

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    The German Defence Ministry said on Monday that the European fighter jet was the leading candidate to replace its Tornado jets, which it wants to start phasing out in 2025. The ministry’s position appears to contradict that of the German air force, whose chief indicated last month that he preferred Lockheed Martin’s F-35, which meets the military’s requirements of stealth and long-distance operational capabilities.

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    Trade union Solidarity on Wednesday reported that State-owned defence industrial group Denel might not be able to pay its staff their salaries for December. It did so in a press release, following a meeting with Denel management, and expressed its “shock and concern” at the situation. The union is continuing talks with management, on behalf of its members. “This is yet another telling example of a [S]tate-owned entity that is suffering severe losses as a result of mismanagement while its workforce – and the entire South Africa for that matter – have to suffer the consequences,” highlighted Solidarity Deputy Secretary General Deon Reyneke. “The company is still short of around R130-million just to make its December salary payments. This is in addition to the huge amounts of debt which its creditors are now demanding.” According to Reyneke, Denel has requested an R850-million guarantee from National Treasury, so that it can raise a loan to alleviate its financial situation. “Apart from the workers who would be hardest hit the taxpayer may well also have to foot the bill yet again for the mismanagement as is the case at so many other state entities in South Africa.”

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    British aerospace, defence, security and shipbuilding group BAE Systems and the University of Manchester unveiled on Wednesday their joint Magma experimental jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme. They announced that the Magma had successfully completed its first phase of flight trials. Magma is described as a “small scale” UAV, with no indication of its size. Chairs and a table just visible in the background of the photo issued with the media release suggest that its dimensions are in the range of a few metres. It is serving as a technology research, development and demonstrator platform for a unique concept for controlling aircraft in flight, using what is called “blown air” instead of conventional flight control surfaces such as ailerons, elevators and rudders. (The air that comes out of a hairdryer is an everyday example of blown air.)

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    The regulations and laws governing access to South African air space for remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) are sound and among the “best in the world”, according to Edenvale-based commercial drone operator Visual Air Productions director Stephen Verheul.

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    Privately-owned South African scheduled and non-scheduled domestic and international operations airline CemAir has concluded a $66-million deal with Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace for two new twin turboprop Q400 regional airliners. This follows on from a Letter of Intent signed between the two enterprises in June at the Paris Air Show. CemAir has also leased a used Q400, that was delivered earlier this month.

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    Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering (KPE), the Kazakhstani division of South African defence and aerospace company Paramount Group, has delivered a new batch of mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) armoured vehicles, called Arlan, to the Kazakhstan Special Forces.

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    In his address to South Africa's first Homeland Security Conference, in Pretoria, on Tuesday, Armscor CEO Kevin Wakeford highlighted that it marked the first time that the defence and security industries were "sitting together". He asserted that the two sectors needed to work together. "We've got to start talking to each other." Furthermore, both these sectors, on the one side, and the government on the other, also needed to work together. There was a need, he said, to develop a national system to combat various threats, including organized crime.

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    South Africa's soon-to-be-created Border Management Authority (BMA) will "hopefully" be funded by a new budget line, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told Engineering News Online on the fringes of the the Homeland Security Conference 2017, in Pretoria on Tuesday. "It shouldn't take money away from the Defence Force, it shouldn't take money away from any Government agency. The National Treasury will have to provide [the] money." The Government recognised the importance of securing the country's borders. "The BMA should have taken off yesterday," she said. (The creation of the BMA had been approved by the Cabinet and it now just awaited the President's signature on the proclamation to be created.) "It should be -- within three years, we'll see baby steps and within five years we'll see a fully-fledged BMA."

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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 recent Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference 2017 in Pretoria. "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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    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 recent fourth annual Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference in Pretoria. Armscor is the Department of Defence's acquisitions, disposals and research and development agency.

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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 recent Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Conference in Pretoria. He cited the case of the order his company received for turrets for the Malaysian Army's new armoured fighting vehicle, the AV8.

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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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    Aviation systems engineering and manufacturing firm Embraer will open an aviation training centre at the OR Tambo International airport, in Johannesburg, in the first half of next year. The facility will be the first of its kind in Africa to provide this range of training for qualified pilots, maintenance technicians and cabin crew, Embraer Services and Support president and CEO Johann Bordais said in a statement on Wednesday.

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    Airbus Commercial Aircraft, the airliner manufacturing arm of European aerospace giant Airbus Group, announced on Monday that last year it had set a new company record for annual deliveries of aircraft. These totalled 718 aeroplanes to 85 customers and amounted to a 4% increase over the 688 delivered in 2016, which was the previous record year. Moreover, the company secured 1 109 net orders from 44 customers during 2017. By the end of the year, its total order backlog stood at 7 265 aircraft, worth $1.059-trillion at list prices. As a result, Airbus has a book-to-bill ratio of 1.5 (that is, the ratio of orders received to units delivered and invoiced – “billed” – over a specific period; a ratio of more than 1 shows that demand is strong). “A new Airbus delivery record coupled with our fifth best order intake wraps up a remarkable year for us,” affirmed Airbus Group Chief Operating Officer and Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Fabrice Brégier. “This outstanding achievement is testimony to the dedication of all our teams, and makes the company fitter, stronger and ready for the opportunities ahead.”

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    Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Fabrice Brégier is very optimistic about the state of the global airliner market and the prospects it offers the company. “The market is still very active; the growth is, in China … still more than 10% year-on-year – on [sic] such a big market, we are having 1 500 Airbus aircraft flying every day, in China,” he said in an interview on Airbus’ own Youtube channel, posted on Monday. “So the potential is there. It’s up to our competitiveness, our commercial aggressivity [sic] and also our industrial performance.” Last year was a very successful one for the company. “[W]e are leading again the sales competition against Boeing,” he highlighted. In terms of units (aircraft), the European manufacturer won 55% of total global airliner orders (excluding regional airliners, a segment in which neither Airbus or Boeing participate), while US group Boeing won 45%. In terms of value, Airbus secured 51% of the market and Boeing 49%. “What makes the difference is the single-aisle market and we could see huge demand, which was confirmed, and the talent of [Chief Operating Officer: Customers] John [Leahy] and his team was to grab that at the very end of the year, because many deals were closed at the end of December,” pointed out Brégier. “The challenge for us was to deliver more than 700, and if possible 720, aircraft by the end of 2017, and I can tell you that it was a hell of a challenge. And I’m very pleased that the teams delivered 718 aircraft.”

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    The Danish government expects to win backing for a substantial increase in defence spending next month, to counter Russia’s intensified military activity in eastern and northern Europe, the NATO-member’s prime minister said Monday. Denmark last week deployed 200 troops to a UK-led NATO mission in Estonia aimed at deterring Russia from attacking the Baltic NATO members.

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    British prosecutors said on Wednesday they had opened a bribery, corruption and money laundering investigation into defence specialist Chemring Group Plc, one of its subsidiaries and individuals associated with the businesses. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said Chemring Technology Solutions (CTSL), which is also being investigated, had handed a report to the authority and that it would examine “the conduct of business by Chemring Group and CTSL including ... officers, employees, agents and persons.”

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    British aerospace, defence, security and shipbuilding group BAE Systems and the University of Manchester unveiled their joint Magma experimental jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme in the middle of last month. They announced that the Magma had successfully completed its first phase of flight trials.

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