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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


The Paris Air Show held from 19 – 25 June 2017, kicked off with French President Macron landing in an Airbus A400-M military transport aircraft at Le Bourget airport. The air show is the largest aerospace event in the world showcasing the likes of established players like Airbus, Boeing, Embraer as well as innovative startups such as Israeli startup Eviation Aircraft, who is offering electric aircraft and Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) options.

Boom Mach 2.2

The Concorde dream continues to be pursued by Boom, an American company set to build the world’s first commercially viable supersonic aircraft. The 55-seater, Mach 2.2 jet may be available by 2023. The XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, a one-third scale model of the passenger aircraft is scheduled to fly in 2018 followed by testing and the relevant certifications. The original Air France and British Airways Concorde fleet retired in 2003 due to a number of factors such as high maintenance costs, falling passenger numbers, and the Paris crash. Technological advances in composite fuselages and high temperature material systems may just make this model viable for economical and safe supersonic flight.


Airbus Helicopters Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) the VSR700 (jointly developed with Helicopteres Guimbal) made its debut at the static display. The VSR700 (derived from the Cabri G2 helicopter), was developed to meet navy requirements for a shipborne rotary-wing tactical UAV. With lower operating costs than a helicopter, the VSR700 will be capable of carrying up to 250 kg of equipment. The UAV could also be used in land based military operations for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions with its optical sensors and maritime or land radar.

Drones have progressed to offer varying functionalities as is evident in Kratos Defense & Security’s XQ-222 Valkyrie, an Unmanned Tactical System (UTS) designed as a wingman to manned aircraft. The UTS combines high speeds and manoeuvrability with fighter capability of being able to deliver a varying payload from its internal bomb bay and wing stations. Its runway independence and range offer operational flexibility.

Eviation’s fully electric Orca was on view at the static display. Orca is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAS with a maximum takeoff weight of 250 kg requiring only a 30m runway. The platform offers a low operating cost solution that can remain airborne for more than eight hours with a 50 kg payload. Eviation has partnered with established manufacturers for production and certification risk sharing such as Magnaghi Aeronautica S.p.A (manufacturer of the SkyAero aircraft) and FBM, an Israeli carbon-based composite producer who manufactured the all-composite prototypes.

Italian company Leonardo’s Falco model in partnership with Heli Protection Europe (a company specialising in airworthiness management, training, and operations) is designed to provide police and rescue operators with an all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance capability for a number of missions ranging from border patrol, coastal watch, environmental monitoring, migration flows management to humanitarian emergencies.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) showcased a weaponized version of its multi-role and autonomously capable ANKA, an advanced MALE UAS able to perform various missions at all times and in all weather conditions such as reconnaissance, target detection or identification, and intelligence with EO/IR and SAR payloads. TAI is set to develop a commercial variant of the ANKA in 12 to 18 months. The first four of ten ANKA-S aircraft will be delivered to the Turkish Air Force by the end of 2017 with the final six in 2018.

China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation’s (CATIC) multi-role, MALE Wing Loong 2 (WL-2) made its debut at a Western air show in an impressive static display. It’s not hard to see that the WL-2 resembles General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. The UAS is a weaponized reconnaissance system that can be equipped with various sensors and weaponry. The WL-2 prototype took to the skies for the first time in February this year.

Fighter Jets

Proudly on display was French aerospace company Dassault Aviation’s Rafale omnirole combat fighter. The Rafale F3R standard will undergo qualification trials next year, which will include testing of AESA RBE2 radar software configuration (AESA radar is manufactured by Thales). The new standard will also include integration of MBDA Missile Systems Meteor air-to-air missile. In the air, the Rafale impressed with bold manoeuvres along with Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

Kawasaki P-1

The very first Japanese military aircraft to land at Le Bourget, Kawasaki’s P-1 maritime patrol aircraft attracted much attention at the show. Japan developed the aircraft (of which 11 are currently in service) to replace its Lockheed P-3 Orion fleet. The four-engine P-1 can be airborne for an extensive period and is used to patrol the sea areas surrounding Japan. A purely Japanese product, the P-1 was developed and manufactured in Japan (including the airframe, engines, and patrol systems).

Decades of a self-imposed ban on arms exports was lifted in 2014 to allow Japan’s producers to export arms and defence equipment following a meticulous screening process. The transfer of arms must contribute to the active promotion of peace and international cooperation or Japan’s security. Potential customers would have to meet these requirements.

Boeing Versus Airbus

The competition between Boeing and Airbus was fiercer than ever. Boeing’s single-aisle 737 MAX 10 acquired 361 orders at the show however almost 60 percent were swaps from other variants of the upgraded 737. In competition was Airbus’s A321NEO, which offers airlines configuration options for seating. According to Airbus, the wings with “Sharklets” and two new engine choices deliver per seat fuel improvements and an additional range of up to 500 nautical miles/900 km or 2 tonnes of extra payload. Airbus focused on promoting the A380plus with improved aerodynamics and 13 percent cost per seat reduction.

The new member of the Airbus A350 XWB family, the A350-1000 was on display. Able to carry up to 440 passengers, it offers better efficiency (25 percent lower operating costs, fuel burn, and C02 emissions) and cheaper maintenance costs (due to new engines and a lighter cabin built from composite materials). The first delivery to Qatar Airways is set for October 2017. Ethiopian Airlines is considering the aircraft and evaluating whether it can perform under Addis Ababa’s 2,400 m altitude conditions. Airbus has a total order backlog of 6,700 aircraft, which includes the A380-800, A350-1000, A350-900, A330-900, and A330-800 passenger aircraft.

According to USA Today, Boeing recorded 571 new orders compared to 326 for Airbus. Airbus signed deals with AirAsia, Zargos Airlines (Iranian), and Iran Airtour. Boeing received an order for 125 737 MAX 8 with an undisclosed customer. Further, it will be converting 15 AerCap MAX 8 orders into the MAX 10. A memorandum of understanding was signed with Chinese Riuli Airlines for 20 737 MAX 8. Boeing revealed at the show its 797 New Midsize Airplane (NMA) project. The aircraft will be a twin-aisle aircraft consisting of a composite fuselage with a hybrid cross-section and fifth-generation composite wings. The new aircraft would fit between the 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner range.


Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA



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