South Africa’s Denel Shines at African Defense Show

 - September 28, 2012, 10:25 AM
The first product of the South African-UAE joint venture will be the Al-Tariq, based on Denel’s Umbani modular bomb kit (Photo: David Donald)

South Africa’s government-owned Denel industrial group dominated the news at last week’s African Aerospace and Defence 2012 show, held at Waterkloof AFB near Pretoria. Just before the show’s opening Denel Aerostructures signed a renegotiated agreement with Airbus Military covering manufacture of top shells and wing/fuselage fairings for the A400M airlifter. The signing of the new deal vindicated a South African government cash injection earlier this year to underpin the loss-making division. A South African order for eight A400Ms was cancelled in 2009 at the height of the airlifter’s technical problems.

Denel Aviation announced a potentially sizeable deal with Russian Helicopters to become the sub-Saharan MRO facility for the Russian company’s civil and military machines. Large numbers of Russian-made helicopters are in service throughout Africa and they remain popular because of their low price and rugged reliability. Denel Aviation also signed a memorandum of understanding with Irkut that might lead to the division becoming the regional MRO organization for Irkut products, including Su-30 fighters. The South African company also signed an MoU with Alenia Aermacchi covering potential collaboration on future development and manufacturing projects.

Denel Dynamics (formerly Kentron) made public a joint venture with Tawazun Holdings of the UAE. The joint venture, known as Tawazun Dynamics, is being established with the aim of developing and manufacturing a range of precision-guided weapons, beginning with the Al-Tariq. This was developed by Denel as the Umbani, and is a modular kit that adds guidance packages (GPS/inertial, plus imaging infrared or semi-active laser options) and range-extension kits (pop-out wing kit and booster rocket motor) to standard Mk 80-series bombs.

Denel Dynamics has demonstrated an ability to develop world-class weapons, but has found it difficult to export them and has limited production capabilities. The joint venture provides a new gateway to the international market and relieves pressure on Denel’s production facility. Al-Tariq will be made at a facility in the Tawazun Industrial Park at Al-Ajban in Abu Dhabi. Denel Dynamics is also in discussion with China’s Poly Technologies about a potential collaboration based on the Ingwe anti-tank missile, which has been developed for air, sea and land applications and which has been selected by Iraq for its EC635 helicopters.

The Dynamics division is responsible for Denel’s UAV operations. A new vehicle, called Hungwe, was revealed at the show. With a span of 3 meters (9.8 feet), this autonomous rail-launched vehicle has been developed for a South African customer, and carries a five-kilogram payload. It first flew in August at Swartkop air base. Denel also revealed that it has launched the Mokopa air-to-surface missile from its well established Seeker UAV.