Undoubtedly marked on the calendars of aerospace and defence connoisseurs worldwide, the biennial Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition showcases the latest technological innovations offering solutions for Africa’s security challenges in the air, on the ground, and at sea. The 2016 AAD expo was open to trade visitors from 14 to 16 September at Waterkloof Air Force Base with exhibits across 7 hangars (indoor and outdoor), static aircraft displays, and hospitality chalets for invited guests.

South African companies such as Paramount Group and Denel impressed with their stands, which were certainly on par with international innovators. Reference must be made to Turkey, who had the largest international pavilion showing an eagerness to explore opportunities in South Africa and beyond. The AAD expo was far from short on large defence suppliers to Africa. Perhaps leading the pack is Russian Defence Export, Rosoboronexport, which according to Yury Demchenko, advisor to Rosoboronexport’s Director General, has orders with African countries exceeding $21 billion. Rosoboronexport operates under the strict supervision of the Russian president and government.


Two notable South African unveilings at the AAD expo were from Paramount Group and Denel. For the first time in Africa, Paramount Group unveiled its Mbombe 8 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). The Mbombe 8 is equipped to undertake a wider range of battlefield missions. Founder of Paramount Group, Ivor Ichikowitz, stated that: “South Africa has been leading the world in armoured vehicle and land mine protected technologies for decades and we’re proud to take this heritage into the future.”

Denel unveiled their revolutionary and light DMG-5 machine gun, developed by three young engineers working for Denel Land Systems (DLS) – Dakalo Nekhumbe, Phindile Mashaba, and Marumo Talane. Stephan Burger, CEO of Denel Land Systems, stated that: “The result represents a major breakthrough for Denel, which will definitely contribute to our reputation as one of the leading global innovators in design and advanced manufacturing and among the top 100 defence companies in the world.”

The AAD expo set the stage for the signing and cementing of various partnerships. A strategic alliance was forged between Denel Integrated Systems and Maritime (DENEL ISM) and Hysucat (based in Cape Town), to develop and market its range of patrol vessels. At the Denel stand, Hysucat showcased its 850 rigid inflatable boat, which was fitted with a weapons turret.

On 16 September 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Denel and Chinese state-owned Poly Technologies (part of China Poly Group) to breathe new life into South African maritime. The alliance could possibly see the construction of three vessels for the South African Navy in either Simon’s Town or Durban, presumably if Poly Technologies is awarded the Project Biro and Hotel tenders.

On the same date, a Memorandum of Understanding regarding missiles was signed by Denel Dynamics and Saudi company ITEAC Group concerning Denel’s Ingwe missile. Dr. Amin Al-Shanqiti, Board Chairman and CEO of ITEAC, stated that their alliance would support technological transference such as setting up local manufacturing facilities in Saudi Arabia for the Ingwe missile.

Competition can sometimes lead to supportive deals as is the case with South Africa’s Paramount Group and U.S. based The Armored Group (TAG). The two companies are set to promote each other’s vehicles in selected markets. Coupled with Paramount’s military reach and TAG’s strong commercial market presence, this partnership is bound to be hugely beneficial for both.

Bell Helicopter is gaining considerable business from Africa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded the company a contract to deliver five Huey II helicopters and spares worth $52.1 million to Kenya and five helicopters worth $34.5 million to Uganda. Further, Steve Suttles, Bell Helicopter Vice President for Middle East and Africa, stated that an unnamed African military would receive five Huey II’s this year.

Additionally on the helicopter front, Airbus Helicopters and Denel Aviation signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in modernising the Rooivalk attack helicopter with a phased programme of enhancements. A Rooivalk helicopter on display at the AAD expo was fitted with an Airbus Defence and Space Optronics Argos II airborne observation system. It will be interesting to see what upgrades they install on this South African classic.

Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA

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