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The Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT), a division of Armscor Defence Institutes, provides research-based technological development and systemic support to the South African Navy. Armscor is the acquisition agency for the South African Department of Defence however it has expanded its service offering to include the research and development of technologies that are marketed locally and internationally.

The IMT has evolved to provide services outside of the maritime domain to other South African National Defence Force (SANDF) structures. State-owned defence-related research institutions in South African at times collaborate and are involved in the transfer of technology from military to civilian applications. An example of this is IMT’s Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detector (UBRD), initially developed to detect cracks on submarines by utilizing sensor technology. The UBRD was developed by Armscor in close collaboration with Transnet and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who provided the transducer for the system. The UBRD detects breaks in railway tracks under any and harsh environmental conditions. The system is easy to install and maintain and does not require track modification, fitting of track bonds, or trenching. The system’s signal processing and diagnostic techniques ensure reliable operation and section coverage of up to 1000 meters.

The UBRD system operates with transmitters and receivers whereby an acoustic signal is generated and inserted in the rail at one location (transmitter), broadcasted along the rail, and received at a remote location (receiver). The integrity of the rail between the transmitter and receiver is in check as long as a signal is received. If the rail develops a clean break between the transmitter and receiver, the signal will not be received resulting in the triggering of an alarm.


UBRD System Components:

  • Transmitter module
  • Receiver module
  • Cabinet with power supply and communication equipment
  • Ultrasonic transducer and cable
  • Rail clamp
  • Alarm terminal


UBRD System Features:

  • Detection of clean breaks
  • Detection of large flaws
  • Notification of train presence
  • Continuous operation
  • Full rail coverage
  • Remote sensing of equipment failures
  • Scan intervals down to a few minutes
  • Robust, rust free components
  • Suitable for solar powered operation
  • Field proven reliability


Since its installation on South African state-owned company Transnet’s iron ore line in 2014, the UBRD has detected several rail breaks on the 846 km line running from Sishen to Saldanha, saving Transnet millions in potential damage costs. Armscor, Transnet, and the CSIR (for the transducer) are collaborating in developing a new generation UBRD, which is set to be even more cost-effective and efficient with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) mostly funding the research.

Armscor is promoting the UBRD internationally and there has been much interest from rail users such as India. India hosts the fourth longest rail network in the world with an operating route length of more than 65 000 km. The rail network is owned and operated by state-owned Indian Railways. The UBRD was tested in India at two different points on a 25 km stretch between Allahabad and Kanpur, and in the Moradabad Division. In its Annual Report for 2016/2017, Armscor reported that the requirement from Indian Railways will more than likely be for the UBRD to cover approximately 2000 km per annum. The UBRD is a positive example of collaboration and what could be achieved if South African research institutions and government entities worked together on projects of interest.


Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA


OIDA Strategic Intelligence – Commentary

• Everyone is keen to push for the sale of TKMS activities (from politicians to shareholders) and ThyssenKrupp CEO Heinrich Hiesinger appears to be attentive to the market about TKMS activities;
• Without the Naval Surface Vessel division, the submarine activity is not profitable;
• If TKMS is sold, the buyer will benefit from synergies, from cutting-edge knowledge and from a non-competitive German market. The buyer will also collaborate with important naval equipment suppliers such as Atlas Elektronik GmbH and its main subsidiary AEUK.
• Losing the MKS 180 contract means that TKMS has lost potential sales abroad and credibility regarding the fact that it has not been chosen by the German Navy.

OIDA Strategic Intelligence – Our Offer

• Understanding and identification of potential industrial synergies (product portfolio), value chain tracking (with subcontractors and suppliers)
• Identification of past/present/future business opportunities and monitoring of order intake • Key figures on actors (company profiling on Abeking& Rasmussen, Atlas Elektronik GmbH, Fassmer, German Naval Yards, Lürssen, Meyer Werft, TKMS but also Damen, Fincantieri, Naval Group, Navantia, Saab, Thales Underwater Systems and Ultra Electronics) AND markets (submarine, surface vessels, etc)
• Key figures on partnerships and monitoring of export customers
• Monitoring interest of TKMS’ sales offshoots.

What is going on?

ThyssenKrupp is stepping away from the shipyard business after having lost the MKS 180 contract (3.5bn€ /£3.07bn). This decision comes from the German Federal Government, as it loses out on constructing the MKS 180 ship to its rivals German Naval Yards and the Dutch Damen (DSNS). The German Federal Government plans to spend 3.5 billion Euros on four units and then an additional 1.5 billion Euros (£1.32bn) for two more units later on. This ship will likely receive interest from other foreign navies. TKMS’ other contracts are now on the line such as Egypt’s order of frigates.

The MKS 180 frigate is the most expensive and prestigious construction in the history of the German Navy. This loss can be perceived as a first foot in the door for foreign constructers into the German ship making industry. This could be the beginning of the end for national German ship making. However, it is conceivable that TKMS might build parts, and deliver components for the MKS 180.

TKMS is a leading company in terms of military ship and submarine making for the German navy. Until today it has had a near monopolistic position fostered by the German government. However, this contract was advertised Europe-wide instead of being nationally awarded. Indeed, government members are now pushing for a European consolidation and seem to be ready to let TKMS go. Shareholders are putting pressure on CEO Hiesinger to dispose of the TKMS holding which weighs on ThyssenKrupp results.

Concerning the MKS 180 bid, TKMS presented the highest price and doubts had arisen about if the ship maker could build such a large ship at all due to recent logistical and financial set-backs (late delivery of the K130 Corvettes, massive defects on the F125 Frigate).

Following this commercial failure several scenarios are under discussion: collaborating with competitors, selling off the branch, or, if no agreement is reached, giving up completely the company. Discussions with Naval Group and Lürssen Group are being considered as well. However for experts, if the Naval Surface Vessel division is sold, the Submarine business will most likely be on the line. The ship market is small, and the two intertwine on an engineering and purchasing level. Negotiations with Rheinmetall failed some years ago due to elevated prices.

Damen (DSNS), German Naval Yards and Lürssen have shown signs of teaming up, not only for the construction of the MKS 180, but to also to work as a consortium for other future projects.

Written by Benjamin Voisin (Finance Analyst) & Alexandra Stafferton (Junior Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence

Turkey’s most extensive contract: T129 ATAK helicopter with Pakistan

On May 30th 2018, Turkey and Pakistan went a step further in their deep armament collaboration following the signing of their biggest contract to date about the sale of 30 multi-role combat helicopters T-129 ATAK, produced by the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).

The helicopter’s configuration is based on the AW129 and its predecessor, the A129 Mangusta, produced by the Italian company Leonardo Helicopters, formerly known as AgustaWestland.

Indeed, the T-129 ATAK has been developed jointly by AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries for the Turkish Armed Forces under the Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance program. There has been a strong collaboration between Italy and Turkey since the 1970’s. The two companies signed a contract in 2007 for a total amount of US$1.2 billion. This contract initially allowed TAI to assemble 51 helicopters with an additional 40 optional helicopters, and to share intellectual property rights regarding the configurations of the helicopter. Since then, 59 helicopters have been ordered with 32 options for Turkish Land Forces and further 9 T129 ATAK Helicopters for the Ministry of Interior.

The T-129 ATAK development debuted in 2008, and it was first put in service in 2012. Until then, it was only used by the Turkish Military and Gendarmerie (Jandarma Genel Komutanlığı). Therefore, this sale to Pakistan is the first helicopter export contract even though a few years ago TAI called for a more extensive contract with Azerbaijan.

Pakistan’s helicopters will be equipped with specific technological weapons as described in the table below.

UMTAS, renamed Mizrak-U, is a new type of missile developed by Roketsan for 13 years. This weapon is an anti-armor missile with a maximum range of 8km able to operate day and night, whatever the weather. Its particularity is that it is effective against tanks and reinforced structures. It is aimed to arm T-129 ATAK helicopters and Anka UAVs. It can also be fitted on land vehicles or naval vessels. According to sources this weapon is said to be the Turkish equivalent of the US-made AGM-114 Hellfire from Lockheed Martin.

Moreover, Turkey decided to engage in national production of an armed aerial vehicle: the Bayraktar TB2, a joint venture with two Turkish developers: Bakar and Kale Kalip. It can be used with missiles like the Mizrak-U. The tests realized in 2015 were successful, and is now able to be used by professionals. Turkey has become one of the few countries to have armed UAVs.

Roketsan also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the European firm Airbus Defence and Space in July 2016, to arm the Airbus C-295 gunship with laser-guided Cirit missiles, and the long-range laser-guided UMTAS anti-tank missiles, as well as the Teber laser-guided bombs.

Turkish officials have added that they are selling the T-129 to a number of countries but refuse to name. However, TAI officials have said that among potential buyers, there is Azerbaijan.


Written by Alix Van Den Bogaerde (Junior Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence



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