One of the world’s largest live-firing demonstrations got underway at the Overberg Test Range earlier this week when Rheinmetall and Denel hosted the second Defence Day, aimed at showcasing Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s capabilities to 400 guests from 57 countries around the world.
The first Defence Day was held at Alkantpan in the Northern Cape. Another Defence Day is scheduled to be held five years from now. For 2015’s edition, held at the Range on April 22 and 23, Rheinmetall and Denel joined forces to display a wide range of weapons and ammunition, from 40 mm grenades to guided bombs.

A wide range of artillery shells was demonstrated, ranging from 105 to 155 mm and in various different types from practice to tracer and illuminating. Shells were fired from nearly 50 kilometres away to land on the Range, and were also fired from the Range at various targets from a self-propelled T5-52 howitzer. This mounts a G5 towed gun on a truck, with the howitzer firing from the rear for an unobstructed arc of fire. It can fire three rounds in under 20 seconds in burst mode.

The artillery shells fired contained various different payloads such as illumination, screening smoke, high explosive, High Explosive Pre-Formed Fragmented (HE PFF), infrared illumination and Velocity-Enhanced Extended Range Shells (VLAP), which use rocket and base bleed assistance for ranges in excess of 40 kilometres. The 155 mm Assegai HE PFF shell, for example, contains 18 000 tungsten pellets that are lethal out to 50 metres. The Assegai shell features insensitive explosives that will not easily detonate when struck by bullets, for example.

A 76 mm OTO Melara naval gun was brought in and this fired tracers as well as PFF ammunition to disable a simulated anti-ship missile mounted on a pole down the range.

A South African Air Force Hawk was used to demonstrate the Al Tariq glide bomb developed by joint Denel/Tawazun company Tawazun Dynamics. The Hawk flew tens of kilometres out to sea before launching the weapon, which glided in over land to hit its target almost dead on. Other South African Air Force aircraft were involved in the demonstration, namely the Seeker 200 (which demonstrated its surveillance capabilities, such as being able to see a tennis ball on the ground at 5 000 feet), and the Rooivalk, which fired FZ 70 rockets and 20 mm cannon rounds at targets on the range. South Africa was one of the earliest customers for the Belgian FZ 70 rockets and Rheinmetall Denel Munition is the exclusive supplier of its rocket propellant.

The Plofadder minefield breaching system caused a big impact, with two different versions of the system being demonstrated: a backpack portable version and the Plofadder 160AT Mk II trailer-borne version containing 560 kg of insensitive explosive to clear minefields.

Denel Dynamics demonstrated the seven second rocket motor for its Umkhonto air-to-surface missile while a Badger missile variant fired an Ingwe anti-tank missile at a target down the range. The Ingwe has a tandem warhead and can penetrate more than 1 000 mm of rolled homogenous armour. However, for the demonstration an inert warhead was used. The Badger also fired its 30 mm CamGun, developed by Denel Land Systems. A BAE Systems RG35 also had the chance to fire its cannon, at a derelict tank down the range.

Various small and medium calibre weapons were demonstrated, notably Denel Land System’s new LCT turret (7.62 mm SS-77 machinegun) aboard a new generation Casspir and Rippel Effect and Milkor’s grenade launchers (which fired smoke, high explosive and less lethal ammunition). Some of the less lethal ammunition fired by the grenades included multi-bang flash bangs (each grenade contains several explosive charges) and rapidly deploying teargas (multiple pellets in one grenade, which also makes it difficult for people to pick up and throw back the canister). An automatic grenade launcher was also put through its paces. Both low, medium and high velocity ammunition was used.

Various mortars were put through their paces, namely 60, 81 and 120 mm mortar bombs fired from M4, M6, L16 and M5 mortars. Various types of rounds were demonstrated, such as screening smoke, high explosive, illumination etc.

Apart from the weapons, the list of pyrotechnics demonstrated included hand-fired rocket flares, hand grenades (lethal and less lethal), illuminating grenades, smoke grenades and signalling grenades.

Denel Land Systems division Mechem put on a dog show, using its highly trained dogs to detect hidden explosives in a vehicle and drugs on a person. The dogs also demonstrated their attack skills by chasing and bringing down running targets. The dogs are trained to sniff out many different things, such as rhino horn, currency and cellphones in addition to drugs and explosives.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition specialises in the field of ammunition, including design, development and manufacturing, particularly regarding artillery, mortar and infantry systems as well as plant engineering. While Rheinmetall Defence does most of its business with NATO countries, Rheinmetall Denel Munition covers not only the South African market but also Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. RDM’s factories in South Africa are all at 100% capacity and some are even running 24 hours a day to keep pace with demand.

Rheinmetall Denel CEO Norbert Schulze said that RDM makes the most modern ammunition in Africa that is on a par with international manufacturers. For example, RDM displaced a French company in manufacturing the propellant for the FZ 70 rocket. Schulze noted that the company’s turnover was five times that after Rheinmetall took over six years ago. Denel Group CEO Riaz Saloojee also praised the success of RDM, saying that when companies partner with Denel, they partner with South Africa since Denel is 100% state owned and as a result can guarantee long-term relationships.

A large number of other companies were involved in the Defence Day, including Pretoria Metal Pressings (PMP), Denel Land Systems, BAE Systems, Denel Dynamics, Rheinmetall Defence, Denel Aviation, Overberg Test Range, Forges de Zeebrugge, Ripple Effect, Milkor, and Mechem, amongst others.