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Latest news on the defence and aerospace sector.

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    European military transport and multirole aircraft producer Airbus Military has announced that it is developing a new version of its highly successful C295 aircraft, the C295W. This version is fitted with winglets (hence the "W" suffix) and has engine enhancements, developed in cooperation with engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

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  • 08/11/13--02:29: New A400M work for Denel
  • South African State-owned aerospace company Denel Aerostructures (DAe) has been awarded a new, €15.1-million (R200-million), work package by European manufacturer Airbus Military to produce structural parts for the A400M military transport aircraft. The contract was announced at the Paris Airshow on Tuesday evening. This A400M work package is the third to be awarded to the South African company and covers the manufacture of the ribs, spars and “swords” – or in other words the framework – of the the vertical tail plane. DAe has already started preparations to manufacture these components and the first complete “shipset” is scheduled to be delivered to the Airbus vertical tail plane plant at Stade in Germany in March next year. “Denel, with its diverse set of expertise, capabilities and capacities, is central to Airbus Military’s ambition to develop an expanded and multifaceted partnership with South Africa’s high-tech aerospace and defence industry, tied to South Africa’s military aircraft requirements and acquisitions,” stated Airbus Military CEO Domingo Ureña.

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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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    Given the current, and likely future, strategic circumstances in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa must re-equip its Special Forces and acquire air transportable light armoured vehicles for its army, argues defence analyst Helmoed Heitman. (In South Africa, the Special Forces are considered to be an strategic asset and thus an element of the South African National Defence Force, and not an element of the South African Army.)

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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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    A key concern of this year’s South African Joint Air Defence Symposium (Sajads) will be the development of an indigenous joint air defence capability, which would be in line with the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) programme to strengthen South African industry. Indeed, the theme for Sajads 2013 is 'Integrated Joint Air Defence within SADC [Southern African Development Community] and Department of Trade and Industry’s Industrial Action Plan to enhance indigenisation'. The technologies and systems required for an effective joint air defence capability are not necessarily exclusively of military value. “Joint air defence is about being aware of what is happening,” stressed Rear-Admiral (junior grade) Karl Wiesner at a media briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday. “You must have awareness. Air defence is about how do I establish a network? How do I use that network to know what is going on around me? How do I use that awareness for effective command and control?”

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    The Department of Public Enterprises is seeking to develop closer relations between the country's three State-owned aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organisations, Denel Aviation, SAA Technical (SAAT) and South African Express (SA Express) Technical.  Denel Aviation is part of the Denel defence industrial group while the other two are part of the South African Airways (SAA) group, SAA being the national carrier.

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    South African Defence company Saab Grintek Defence, with its Swedish parent group, Saab, is actively seeking a partner to complete the development of its cutting edge Land Electronic Defence System 150 (Leds-150) active protection (self-defence) system for armoured vehicles. The Leds-150 detects incoming anti-armour missiles, rockets and other projectiles and launches a small interceptor missile that destroys the incoming weapons before they reach the vehicle.

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    South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel is developing its strategy for Africa, which has been identified as a potential major market (in addition to the Middle East, South East Asia and Latin America). The group can supply customers with a wide range of both products and services. To give just some examples, these include unmanned air vehicles, vehicles, a wide range of weapons, maintenance, repair, overhaul and demining.

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    South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Tuesday. The CSIR and Denel have been collaborating for many years, but this MoU will further strengthen and deepen the cooperation between the two institutions. The MoU covers research and development (R&D) and technology projects including joint product development. A joint steering group will be set up to deal with matters such as intellectual property and market intelligence, while bilateral committees will be responsible for carrying out the actual projects. The areas covered by the new agreement include advanced manufacturing, modelling and simulation, protected landward mobility and firepower, space engineering, systems engineering and unmanned systems. Included is the joint marketing of products and skills in international markets.

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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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    Defence industrial group Denel can play a central role in rebuilding the South African defence industry, argues group CEO Riaz Saloojee. “We’re agile. Because we’re State-owned, we can play a key role in the development of defence and play a key role in empowering the supply chain.”

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    A key concern of this year’s South African Joint Air Defence Symposium (Sajads) will be the development of an indigenous joint air defence capability which would be in line with the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) programme to strengthen South African industry. Indeed, the theme for Sajads 2013 is “Integrated Joint Air Defence within SADC [Southern African Development Community] and Department of Trade and Industry’s Industrial Action Plan to enhance indigenisation”. (The term joint, in military jargon, refers to integrated operations between the army, navy and air force.)

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    Well, at long last, the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into South Africa’s acquisition of modern fighters, fighter-trainers, light utility and maritime helicopters, frigates and submarines is now under way. Commissions of Inquiry, in many countries, are often portrayed as instruments whose function is more the protection of the government than the unveiling of the truth, but they often do do something very valuable indeed, at least for serious researchers – they can bring lots of important documents into the public domain. Nothing truly secret, of course, but often a lot of useful information becomes available. Hopefully, the Seriti Commission will do this, at least.

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    South African defence company Denel Land Systems (DLS), part of the State-owned Denel group, will publicly unveil two new products at the 2013 Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition at the Excel Centre in London next week. The new products are the M10 60 mm breech loading mortar and the GI-30 30 mm “CamGun” cannon. “We have chosen DSEI to launch these systems internationally because it is the world’s largest fully-integrated defence expo and attracts industry leaders, decision-makers and analysts from across the globe,” explained Denel group CEO Riaz Saloojee in a statement on Wednesday. DLS regards the mortar and cannon as world leaders in their areas and affirms that both have features that are unique. Both new weapons have been developed in parallel with DLS’s new Badger infantry combat vehicle (ICV). This is a South African development of the Finnish Patria armoured modular vehicle, modified to meet South African requirements and fitted with a DLS-developed turret.

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    The role of industry in the development and maintenance of air defence systems was highlighted at the 2013 South African Joint Air Defence Symposium (SAJADS) in Pretoria on Tuesday. The theme for this year's event is 'Integrated Joint Air Defence within SADC [Southern African Development Community] and the Department of Trade and Industry's Action Plan to Enhance Indigenisation'.

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    Air defence has ceased to be an issue of concern only in conventional warfare scenarios, a leading South African defence analyst has warned. "In Africa, clandestine airlift is common," Helmoed Heitman told the 2013 South African Joint Air Defence Symposium in Pretoria on Tuesday. These clandestine air transport activities are not just undertaken by governments. They include illegal activities by smugglers and rebel groups. "Even mineral ores a flown out of the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], by smugglers and by rebels."

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    Should the South African Army (SA Army) chose to upgrade its anti-aircraft artillery, Swiss defence company Rheinmetall Air Defence has a proposal to include local content in such a project. Advances in technology mean that there is now a gap in the SA Army's air defence capability. The SA Army currently operates twin 35 mm air defence guns acquired from Rheinmetall ancestor company Oerlikon. Reportedly, the army acquired 169 of these guns, along with 75 Superfledermaus fire control units (FCUs) in 1963. In 1990, 48 of these Mark (Mk) I guns were upgraded to Mk V status and the Superfledermaus FCUs replaced by Italian LPD20 radars.

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