Denel Land Systems showed off a wide range of its products at its Lyttelton facilities on Tuesday, showcasing proven technology, like its G6 artillery and R4 assault rifles, and new hardware, such as its Badger armoured vehicle, 60 mm breech loading mortar and 105 mm howitzer.
Stephan Burger, CEO of Denel Land Systems (DLS), said recent restructuring and acquisitions have broadened the company’s range of products and services, confirming its role as a strategic land systems partner to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). “We are extremely proud of what we have and who we are,” he told journalists at a briefing yesterday.
DLS said the strength of the company lies in its ability to meet South Africa’s entire landward defence needs – from infantry weapons and mortars to armoured vehicles, artillery and logistical support. The fact that Denel is now profitable and not making a loss any more further strengthens its ability to support the SANDF. “Our purpose is not only to make money – it is to support the strategic needs of the SANDF in terms of combat systems. We are fulfilling that role but we can’t do that by relying on South African business.”
As a result, some 80% of DLS turnover comes from export orders. Burger said that DLS is now a “mature and confident company which can build on a reputation and experience of more than 60 years. The next step will be to grow our share in the global markets – especially in our niche capabilities in artillery systems.”
Burger said that Denel’s G6 and G5 howitzers still set the global standards for long-range artillery. “The G6 was ahead of its time when it was first launched in 1987. Through our continuous research and investment in the gun we have ensured it remains ahead of the pack as the most versatile and reliable artillery system in its class. We are still outgunning all our global competitors by a wide margin.”
He told defenceWeb that DLS was in negotiations with a couple of customers for a “substantial number” of these weapons, which are in high demand.
On the artillery side, DLS yesterday showcased its 105 mm howitzer, which is still under development and waiting for an order so this can be completed. Burger told defenceWeb that the gun was more of a technology demonstrator and is taking a back seat to the G5 and G6, which are important products for the company. The 105 mm gun has a range of 30 km, versus the average of 18 km for other weapons of that calibre, Denel said. Burger noted that the 105 mm is important to Denel’s long-term planning as a next generation weapon.
Two of the main areas that Denel Land Systems is focusing on is artillery for export and the maintenance of the SANDF’s B-vehicle fleet. With upcoming contracts, DLS expects turnover to reach into the billions of rands soon.
DLS exhibited the smaller side of its range yesterday, including long range and regular 81 and 60 mm mortars, SS77 and mini-SS machineguns, automatic grenade launchers, 20 mm cannons and R4 assault rifles. Displayed on the Badger armoured vehicle was the 60 mm breech loading mortar. This design is water cooled, allowing a high rate of fire. Burger said it was one of a few such breech loading designs in the world but the only type of its size.
Denel has upgraded the R4 with new furniture able to fit a wide variety of attachments, such as laser and infrared sights, red dot sights, Milkor underbarrel 40 mm grenade launchers, shock prodders and other add-ons. The company has received orders for several hundred upgraded R4s for the South African military for evaluation as a subcomponent of its African Warrior programme. Burger said that occasional small orders for items like the SS77 and mortars are received from places like the United Arab Emirates and Columbia, for example.
Also on the small arms side, DLS has partnered with Swiss firearm company Brugger & Thomet (B&T), with the two companies sharing technology and product lines. Burger said the partnership was a cheap way of getting new capability.
Sales of Denel’s GI-2 20 mm cannon have been progressing well and the company says it has seen a resurgence in demand for this calibre of weapon, particularly for naval applications. Burger said there was a lot of interest in rapid fire cannons from the Far East. Denel recently supplied a number of 20 mm cannons and double SS77 machinegun mounts to Kenya for its Puma helicopters.
Also on display was the NTW-20 anti-material weapon, able to destroy high value targets such as bunkers, command and control stations and stationary aircraft with pin-point accuracy over distances of more than 1 200 meters. The 14.5 mm variant was used by a South African soldier to snipe M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year, with one kill taking place at a range of 2 125 metres – one of the longest successful sniper kills in history.
On the vehicle side, Denel Land Systems demonstrated its new Badger infantry combat vehicle, which has just been ordered for the South African Army. The first of 238 Badgers will be delivered to the SA Army in the fourth quarter of 2016. Burger said the Badger order was “absolutely needed” for many reasons, one of which was to support the South African defence industry.
A number of different Casspir armoured personnel carriers were on display, including old and new variants in different configurations, such as ambulance and mine clearance. Specialist de-mining company Mechem, part of DLS, manufactures the Casspir vehicle, used by the United Nations in various peace missions.
Mechem is one of the few demining companies accredited by the United Nations and is currently active in post-conflict zones in 11 African countries. Its specially-trained sniffer dogs are able to detect landmines, drugs and contraband. They were impressively demonstrated yesterday, with the dogs detecting explosives, drugs and landmines and also tackling a ‘bad guy’. Denel said that its dogs are involved in anti-rhino poaching operations in the Kruger Park, as they are used for tracking and detection.