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The construction of the Italian Navy Future Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) was initiated on the 12th of July 2017, with the traditional Steel Cutting Ceremony that took place at the Fincantieri shipyard in Castellamare di Stabia, Italy. Most of the ship construction will be held there before being moved to La Spezia for the final modifications and delivery to the Marina Militare. The LHD Trieste should be commissioned in 2022 which is three years before the forecasted retirement of the CVS Garibaldi in 2025 that the LHD is meant to replace as Capital Ship with the LPD San Giorgio.

Need for a fleet renewal

According to Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, the Italian Navy’s chief of staff, “the fleet today consists of around 60 ships […] of which more than 50 are scheduled to be retired within the next decade to be replace by multipurpose platforms” reported in April Jane’s Defence Weekly. To resolve this capacity deficiencies and buttress this military effort, De Giorgi and former defense minister Roberta Pinotti achieved a €5.4 bn special budget allocation by the Italian Parliament in late 2014. This batch includes, along the LHD, several Logistic Support Ships, six Offshore Multipurpose Patrol Ships and two high speed Special Forces vessels. The makeover project went through somewhat gray areas, notably with the initial official communication which mostly dealt with its humanitarian purpose allegedly to hide the actual military aim. However, it rapidly became clear that this program would be an opportunity to provide a successor to the ageing Garibaldi aircraft carrier with a brand-new flagship for the Marina Militare.

Multipurpose answer to multidimensional issues

Facing the recent oriental Mediterranean turmoil and the pertaining needs to reassess its mission panel on various tasks from war fighting to humanitarian relief, the Italian Navy’s new LHD will be a multirole answer to these military and humanitarian threats as describes it the Italian Vessel maker Fincantieri.

The unit will be 245 meters long with a maximum speed of 25 knots while weighing 33,000 tons at full load. It will be equipped with a combined diesel and gas turbine plant (CODOG) and will be able to accommodate 1,064 people on board, of whom more than 700 military or civilian transported people. The ship endurance has improved since the Cavour class development; this one has a range of 7,000 nautical miles and is able to sail over 30 days in a row. Among other propellers, the LHD is to be equipped with a couple of gas MT30 turbines, the new engines models from Rolls Royce with an improved weight/power ratio enabling the ship to earn from enjoyable autonomy gains. These engines constitute the ultimate of naval engines achievement in power efficiency and also equip several other major warships, notably the two UK Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier and the US Zumwalt destroyers.

The LHD can carry a fully equipped battalion of landing troops with flight deck for helicopter operation and a full-length garage deck as well as a convertible well deck to accommodate landing crafts (LCMs). It will be endowed of an extended hospital with surgery rooms, radiology, dentist and laboratory; able to take on up to 28 seriously injured patients. Its civil capabilities also include an in-board desalinization plant to provide drinking water to areas damaged by natural disasters along with electric supply up to 2,000 kW.

Its improved carrying capacities also enable several trucks to fit in the ship in addition to military vehicles and rotorcrafts able to assume ASW and SAR missions. On its desk and hangars, the ship is able to carry respectively five EH-101 Agusta Westland helicopters on the desk spots and four stored downstairs but easily available through two side lifts. The four LCM landing craft, deployed through a flooded basin located on the stern of the vessel units, has a load capacity up to 60 tons which let it to carry amphibious assault troops or even the Italian MBT Ariete.

Additionally, three Oto Melara 76mm gun, three secondary guns of 25mm and six 12.7 mm machine guns will constitute the ship own armament along with other missile cells, radars, decoys and countermeasures (detailed in the chart hereinafter).

Contract consortium setting

To conduct this ambitious ship procurement program, the Marina Militare, through the Central Unit For Naval Armament (NAVARM), propped up the gathering of the project’s main stakeholders in an Raggruppamento Temporaneo di Impresa (RTI), temporary grouping of companies with Fincantieri and Leonardo.

Comments: This consortium has been made in 2014 in order to have a single reference for the customer in the aim of the renewal of the Italian Navy’s fleet with the construction of six patrol vessels (PPA, or Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Ship), with four more in option, and for one logistic support unit (LSS or Logistic Support Ship) valued at approx. €3.5 bn.

In addition to building the ship at its Naples shipyard, Fincantieri will also assume the overhauls and support over the vessel’s engine lifecycle and other logistical issues during ten years. Leonardo (former Selex) will be in charge of the combat systems production including landing craft, self-defence equipment, communication devices, sensors and others subsidiaries equipment integration (OTO Melara, WASS). Leonardo will also assume the combat systems maintenance during a decade.

The program economic fallout, as disclosed to date, represent quite a substantial bargain for Italian defence actors. The total value of the contract is over €1.1 bn, with Fincantieri’s share amounting to approximately €853 m and Leonardo’s to about €273 m.

An optional later coming unit could join the Trieste after 2023 to extend and reassert the first-rate role claimed by Italy in the Mediterranean Sea.

Written by Nicolas Charrié (Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence


With armoured vehicle exports rated as South Africa’s largest exports for 2016, it is no surprise that Denel Vehicle Systems is leading the pack with regards to orders.

On 28 April 2015, Denel bought from BAE its 75% stake in Land Systems South Africa (LSSA) for R641 million ($53 million) and the remaining 25% stake from BAE Systems’ partner DGD Technologies, costing Denel R855 million in total. BAE Land Systems South Africa was rebranded as Denel Vehicle Systems.

Denel Vehicle Systems is comprised of three business units namely OMC, Gear Ratio, and Mechatronics, offering services to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the South African Police Service (SAPS), and foreign customers.

Denel Vehicle Systems is the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of:

• Main battle tank such as the Olifant
• Heavy wheeled armoured combat vehicles such as the Rooikat and the weapon platform for the G-6 SP Howitzer
• Ratel infantry fighting vehicle
• Casspir and Mamba armoured personnel carriers
• Police and security vehicles such as the RG12 Nyala
• SAMIL trucks


OMC manufactures armoured vehicles and provides maintenance, upgrades, and retrofits, offering in-service support for more than 7000 armoured vehicles and military trucks in service with the South African Army and the SAPS and more than
3 500 armoured vehicles in service with armed forces across the globe.

OMC manufactures the following vehicles:

• RG32M armoured patrol vehicle
• RG32 LTV light tactical vehicle
• RG12 armoured public order police vehicle
• RG31 mine protected personnel carrier
• RG21 mine protected personnel carrier
• RG41 8×8 wheeled armoured combat vehicle

Gear Ratio

Gear Ratio offers custom designed and manufactured components for transmissions and drivelines developed in partnership with selected partners.

Gear Ratio includes:

• Power shift transmissions
• Axles
• Transaxles
• Torque converters
• Transfer gearboxes
• Wheel stations
• Railway traction gears
• Dana Service Centre for Southern Africa


Mechatronics designs and manufactures Fire Directing Systems (FDS), Remotely Controlled Turrets, Weapon Stations, Fire Control Sub-systems (FCS), and various shooting training systems.

Mechatronics products include:

• Tactical Remote Turret (TRT)
• Self-Defence Remotely Operated Weapon (S-DROW)
• Overhead Manned Turret (OMT)
• Remote Cocking Mechanism (BCM)
• Missile Stabilised Turret (MST)
• Mobile-Fully Interactive Rifle Shooting Training (M-First)
• Turrets for attack helicopters
• Fire Control Systems (FCS) Building Blocks
• Aerial Target drone

The popular Casspir, of which production began in 2010, has targeted the African market with more than 200 vehicle-variants sold to African clients and the United Nations. Customers include the African Union, Benin, Burundi, Djibouti, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Denel Vehicle Systems has seen much success with over a billion rand in contracts including a R900 million contract with Emirati NIMR Automotive to manufacture and supply N35 vehicles.

Orders and deliveries according to SIPRI Arms Transfers Database:

India: Ordered 250 Casspir-6 (MPV-I version including production of components and final assembly in India) with delivery from 2018.

Namibia: Ordered 8 RG32 Scout in 2016 with delivery set for 2017.

United Arab Emirates: Ordered 50 N35 in 2015 with ten delivered in 2016. The design of the RG35 was sold to NIMR Automotive, which began manufacturing the vehicle as the N35 in the UAE with 4×4 and 6×6 versions. In November 2015, a R900 million contract was signed with NIMR over the development and supply of the N35 (re-designated as the JAIS), with initial production planned in South African followed by subsequent production in the UAE at Tawazun Industrial Park (60% of NIMR was acquired by Tawazun Holdings in 2010). NIMR range of armoured vehicles will be marketed, distributed, produced, and supported by VOP CZ in the Visegrad countries under a strategic collaboration agreement. The agreement covers the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. On the last day of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, NIMR announced that it would manufacture 1 500 JAIS four-wheel drive and six-wheel drive versions.

Ordered 24 RG31 Nyala (Mortar carrier version with 120mm mortar from Singapore; UAE designation Agrab-2) in 2015 with delivery in 2016 to Abu Dhabi’s International Golden Group (IGG), a defence and security firm.

Angola: Ordered 45 Casspir (Casspir-2000B version; including ARV, command post, ALV, and ambulance versions) in 2013, which were delivered between 2015 and 2016.

Unknown Recipient: Ordered 24 RG31 Nyala (Mortar carrier version) in 2015, which were delivered in 2016.


Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA


The Rooivalk combat support helicopter has proved its performance and operational success in the African theatre. The question now is what the future holds for the current fleet, which is in need of a serious upgrade. With futuristic looks that were ahead of its time, the Rooivalk was based on the South African Oryx helicopter, which in turn was modelled on the French Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma. The Rooivalk is the only vertical take-off and landing combat helicopter in South Africa able to operate from diverse terrain, tight spaces, and in a range of weather conditions. Denel Aviation oversees the design and is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the Rooivalk. There are 11 Rooivalk currently in the MK1 Block 1F standard, with the 12th having sustained a hard landing.

The helicopter has seen much successful flying time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the United Nations as a peacekeeping capability against rebels. In 2016, the Rooivalk fired 1 200 70mm rockets and 11 000 rounds of 20mm ammunition, an increase from the 55 70mm rockets fired in 2013 when the aircraft was first deployed to the DRC. The Rooivalk is designed to carry a variety of missiles depending on operator requirements. It can be armed with a F2 20mm cannon, 38 or 76 FZ70 70mm or FZ90 90mm unguided rockets, four MBDA Mistral air-to-air missiles, and eight or 16 Denel precision-guided anti-tank Mokopa or Ingwe laser guided, beam-riding missiles.

Regarding upgrades to the helicopter, the South African Department of Defence is in the process of determining future requirements with Denel having identified upgrades needed for future operational needs (avionics and weapons). Denel may eventually integrate the A-Darter air-to-air missile onto the helicopter. In September 2016 at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (AAD), Denel and Airbus Helicopters signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enhance the Rooivalk in phases. The Rooivalk uses Airbus Helicopters technologies for engine and gearbox components. Hensoldt Optronics Argos II airborne observation system (designed and produced in South Africa) will be fitted onto the Rooivalk. In February 2016, Denel divulged that it is considering developing a next generation Rooivalk MK2 at a demonstration at the Denel Overberg Test Range (DOTR) where a Rooivalk fired two Mokopa missiles as part of on-going qualification testing.

The future may indeed be full of promise for the Rooivalk. Successful operations in the DRC are proof that the helicopter is not as obsolete as opinions suggest and despite its dated avionics, is effective in combat operations in Africa. The helicopter market is growing in the developing world and Denel is focusing its attention on smaller players looking for a regional capability. Denel should also be open to partnerships especially from its African allies as a solution to funding issues, marketing the Rooivalk as an African protector.


Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA



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