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Rheinmetall Defence group has an impressive list of divisions and subsidiaries across international borders dealing in weapons and ammunition, vehicle systems, and electronic solutions. Even though the subsidiaries are responsible for their own respective market segments, Rheinmetall Defence has managed to strategically increase its overall global reach through these subsidiaries.

As a subsidiary of Rheinmetall Defence, Rheinmetall Denel Munition (Pty) Ltd (RDM) is jointly owned by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH of Germany (holding 51% of shares with 3 board members) and Denel (Pty) Ltd. of South Africa (holding 49% of shares with 2 board members). RDM was established in September 2008 when Denel divisions Somchem (Somerset West and Wellington sites), Swartklip, Boksburg, and Naschem were integrated into RDM. Surprisingly, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) accounts for only 6% of RDM’s business and they acquire the majority of their munitions from the company. RDM’s big business lies in exports.

With 1 416 employees, RDM specializes in ammunition and develops, designs, and manufactures large and medium calibre munitions excelling in the field of artillery, mortar, infantry systems, and plant engineering for various filling and lapping facilities. Currently, RDM’s order book accounts for one and a quarter years of production. RDM has been growing at 20% per year and continues to invest in upgrading its facilities with the next three years seeing another R550 million investment (it has invested R1.1 billion to date). RDM is also conscious of the environment and is involved in protecting wildlife and sustaining biodiversity at three of its four production sites.


Around 70% of RDM’s current production comprises artillery rounds and mortars. In addition to producing a wide variety of ammunition such as the 105 and 155 mm artillery shells; 60, 81, and 120 mm mortars; 40 x 51 mm grenades; and 76/62 mm shells, RDM also manufactures bombs, rocket, and missile subsystems.

  • Artillery ammunition (105mm and 155mm)
  • Mortar ammunition (60, 81, and 120mm)
  • Missile subsystems (propulsion units, warheads, etc.)
  • Minefield breaching systems
  • Ammunition for naval applications
  • 40mm infantry ammunition and pyrotechnics
  • Propellants and raw materials
  • Ammunition and metal components


RDM’s largest export markets are the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. RDM has been a supplier to Denel Dynamics for all rocket motor propellants (such as the A-Darter and Ingwe). RDM also provides Tawazun Dynamics (a joint venture between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Tawazun Holdings and Denel) Al Tariq bomb kit with insensitive explosive filling for the Mk 81 and Mk 82 bombs. RDM is also the sole supplier of propellants for Forges de Zeebrugge FZ 70 rockets.

In North Africa following four years of construction, RDM is in the final stages of commissioning a universal filling facility able to fill a variety of munitions including medium and large calibre ammunition and aircraft bombs. In the Middle East, RDM in conjunction with Saudi Military Industries Corporation successfully built an ammunitions factory. Denel’s 2015 annual financial report showed a strong increase in booked orders with a current value of more than R3.1 billion (major booked multi-year projects from Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and UAE).

Potential future business includes a €28 million contract for Plofadder mine clearing systems and a €65 million contract for ammunition from an international customer. RDM CEO, Norbet Schulze, told DefenceWeb that RDM expects to win a R500 million contract from the Middle East for 40 mm grenades by the fourth quarter of 2017.

RDM is looking to expand into a R4.5 billion company and judging by its financials, it continues full steam ahead. There is no doubt of the positive impact Rheinmetall Defence had in its involvement with Denel as prior to RDM’s formation, Denel’s munition divisions were making a loss of R159 million. RDM’s launch in 2008 impressively resulted in a R89 million profit in 2009.


Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA


Mexico is modernizing its naval fleet with the acquisition of a single Damen SIGMA 10514 long-range patrol vessel. With a maximum speed of 28 knots and a helicopter deck for day or night operations (with refuelling capability), the SIGMA will open up a number of possibilities for the Mexican Navy (Secretaria de Marina – SEMAR) such as the capability to assist on humanitarian missions, search and rescue, deterrence, ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare), AAW (Anti-Aircraft Warfare), ASuW (Anti-Surface Warfare), and EW (Electronic Warfare), as well as participate in international exercises. Able to accommodate customer platform and combat system requirements, Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) SIGMA series of naval combatants is an appealing choice to navies.

The Mexican Navy is no stranger to the Dutch shipbuilder and is currently operating ten Damen vessels in its fleet, having signed two contracts in 2014. The first contract was signed for seven Damen Stan Patrol 4207’s built at ASTIMAR 1 in Tampico on the Gulf of Mexico. A contract for a further three Stan Patrols brought the number to ten. Damen provided a package including engineering, materials, technical assistance, and crew training. In January 2017, the ninth vessel named ARM Bonampak was launched at ASTIMAR 1. A contract was also signed for a Damen Fast Crew Supplier 5009 tailored to Mexican Navy requirements. The vessel will be constructed at ASTIMAR 6 in Guaymas on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

With regards to the SIGMA 10514, Damen continues to contribute to the development of Mexican shipbuilding capabilities by splitting construction between Mexico (where four modules will be constructed) and the Netherlands (two modules). The modules will be integrated in Mexico between June and September 2018. This form of module construction allows Damen the opportunity to build vessels in any location and offers local yards a transfer of technology opening up a cooperative channel, which can only be beneficial for the local industry. On 17 August 2017, a keel laying ceremony held at DSNS in Vlissingen, Netherlands was attended by Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz, Secretary of the Mexican Navy. The launch of the SIGMA 10514 is scheduled for October 2018.

The SIGMA 10514 contains a sensor suite with 3D surveillance and target indication radar and IFF, Radar/electro-optical fire control, hull mounted sonar, ESM, combat management system, and integrated internal and external communication system. Its weapons capability includes a medium calibre gun 76mm, close in weapon system, two small calibre guns, two SSM launchers, 12 cell SAM launcher, two triple torpedo launching systems, two decoy launchers, and ECM.

The Indonesian Ministry of Defence is also a fan of the SIGMA series and in February 2017, received a SIGMA 10514 Perusak Kawal Rudal (PKR) frigate named the Raden Eddy Martadinata after a founder of the Indonesian Navy. The vessel was assembled at the PT PAL shipyard in Surabaya, Indonesia where the ceremony took place. The vessel was also built in modular fashion at DSNS (two modules) and PT PAL Shipyard (four modules). A second frigate is under construction with delivery set for October 2017. The Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) came close to enhancing its navy with a SIGMA corvette deal however the deal fell through due to procurement inefficiency and funding constraints.




Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA


The MiG-29K was chosen by the Indian Navy for aircraft carriers INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov, which was acquired from Russia) and the indigenous aircraft carrier currently being built, the INS Vikrant. The multi-role, new generation MiG-29K has a newly designed, resilient airframe (with around 15% composite materials) said to be stronger than that of its predecessors. With fly-by-wire technology and RD-33 MK engines, the MiG-29K is a technological improvement of the MiG-29.

In January 2004, a contract was signed between the Indian Ministry of Defence and the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (RAC) for the acquisition of 16 MiG 29K/KUB (KUB is the dual-seat variant) and equipment at a cost of $740.35 million, including 13 aircraft for the INS Vikramaditya. In March 2010, an Option Clause contract was signed for the acquisition of 29 MiG 29K/KUB aircraft (which included 12 MiG-29K and one MiG-29KUB) for the INS Vikrant at a cost of $1466.44 million. The deliveries of the Mig-29K under the Option Clause scheduled between 2012 and 2016 are ahead of the commissioning schedule of the INS Vikrant set for 2023. By September 2014, the Indian Navy received 21 aircraft.

The MiG-29K has not been without problems. Deck landings on the INS Vikramaditya are affecting the MiG-29K’s structure with regular maintenance and re-setting of systems needed. In February 2017, a MiG-29K made an emergency landing at Mangaluru International Airport in Mangalore, India due to a technical failure. According to former airport director, J.T. Radhakrishna, the aircraft developed a technical problem and asked for permission to land. On landing, the rear tyres of the aircraft burst stranding the Mig-29K on the runway.

The RD-33 MK engines have experienced several issues with India looking to build a maintenance repair and overhaul facility at INS Hansa to maintain the MiG-29K. According to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for the year March 2015 (Report No.17 of 2016), the MiG-29K continues to face operational limitations due to defects in engines, airframe, and the fly-by-wire system.

According to the report, serviceability of the MiG-29K was low ranging from 15.93 per cent (2011-2012) to 37.63 per cent (2014-2015). The MiG-29K’s service life is 6000 hours or 25 years, however issues with the aircraft drastically reduce this range. Serviceability means that the Mig-29K is technically available and not undergoing scheduled repair or overhaul. The service life of the RD-33 MK engine is 4000 hours or ten years with an overhaul life of 1000 hours. The Indian Navy ordered 113 engines together with the 45 aircraft (90 installed on aircraft and 23 spare engines).

As of September 2014, the Indian Navy had accepted a total of 65 engines (42 with the 21 aircraft delivered and 23 spare). However, since induction in February 2010 40 engines (representing 62 per cent of 65 engines) had been withdrawn from service or rejected due to design-related defects or deficiencies. According to the Audit report, the defects had serious safety implications with in-flight engine defects leading to ten cases of single engine landings. Up to August 2015, 46 engines were withdrawn from service, placing the reliability of the RD-33 MK into question, since it is an improvement of the RD-33.

Airframe defects reared their head during the first deck trials on the INS Vikramaditya in July 2012 as reported by Headquarters Western Naval Command, Mumbai to the Directorate of Naval Air Staff. In May 2014, the RAC stated that aircraft performance under test conditions on the INS Vikramaditya conformed to specifications, however added that weaknesses were revealed during flight tests, which would be eliminated. In June 2014, the Directorate of Air Support Equipment informed the RAC that several defects occurred during deck operations due to failure of airframe parts despite design improvements and modifications. The Indian Navy is monitoring the defects and informing RAC for remedial measures. These defects have a serious impact on pilots training and capability for extended deployments. Regarding the fly-by-wire system, RAC assures that the system has quadruple redundancy however reliability has been very poor ranging from 3.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent between July 2012 and June 2014. The RAC is looking to improve the reliability of the system.

Despite the deficiencies, the Russians are disputing public claims of issues relating to the Mig-29K. Earlier this month, the RAC sent a statement to Jane’s Information Group following an American article on maintenance issues stating: “We would like to flatly refute all negative allegations in the article concerning the MiG-29K aircraft, which are the sole fighters on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. Neither we, nor our partners have received any official claims about operational problems with the Russian MiG aircraft.” The RAC added that the INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant aircraft carriers are designed to carry Russian aircraft including the MiG-29K/KUB.

It’s not hard to see that carrier compatibility of the Mig-29K during deck operations is yet to be fully proved and despite modifications, the Mig-29K continues to face operational deficiencies. To add fuel to the flames, the delayed commissioning of the INS Vikrant set for 2023 would reduce the service life of the aircraft, affecting the operational life of the aircraft already delivered. Even though the INS Vikramaditya is in service, the continuous shifting of delivery timelines of the INS Vikrant will without a doubt impact India’s naval capabilities.

Current RFI :

India issued a Request For Information (RFI) in January 2017 for 57 Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) for Indian Navy aircraft carriers. Manufacturers have to undertake offset contracts amounting to 30% of the value of their commercial proposals.

Contenders are Boeing (F-18 Super Hornet), Dassault Aviation (Rafale M), Saab (Sea Gripen/Gripen M) and RAC (Mig-29 K).


Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA

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