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Badger IFV manufacturing to start within 24 months

A Badger infantry fighting vehicle.Serial production of the Badger infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) for the South African Army will start within the coming 24 months, with the first fully-completed local Badger to roll off production facilities in Lyttelton in late 2016, according to Denel.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and state arms contracting company Armscor placed an order for 238 of the vehicles in November 2013, to be delivered over a ten year period.

At the moment the vehicle is undergoing operational testing and evaluation at various testing grounds in the Northern Cape such as Armscor’s Alkantpan facility and the SA Army’s combat training centre at Lohatla. The SA Army – as the end-user – and Armscor are involved with the process every step of the way to ensure the final design meets their requirements, Denel said.

“The evaluation of the prototype vehicles is in process and we have received very positive feedback from the joint teams responsible for the testing,” said Stephan Burger, the CEO of Denel Land Systems (DLS).

Burger said the locally-designed and produced Badger is the culmination of decades of research, testing and development that produced a mature vehicle which will provide South African soldiers with unrivalled firepower and mobility and maximum armoured protection.

The vehicle’s platform is based on a design from Finnish company Patria, which was modified by DLS to meet local user requirements including landmine protection, manoeuvrability and firepower.

A South African team will soon spend a few months in Finland to participate in the manufacturing of the initial 16 vehicles after which the entire production process will be migrated to South Africa. During this second stage 70% of the vehicle will be produced in South Africa using local skills, manufacturing capacity, defence technology and subcontractors, Denel said.

Burger said the contract will create and retain at least 2 000 jobs in the downstream South African defence industry among local subcontractors as well as 200 direct jobs at Denel Land Systems. These jobs cover a wide spectrum from graduate engineers, system designers and artisans to skilled and semi-skilled workers.

“The programme makes a decisive contribution to meet the country industrial objectives with regards to skills development, advanced manufacturing and job creation,” he said.

The Programme Manager, Avishkar Govender, said the modular infantry system has been developed by Denel Land System in five variants, namely Command, Section, Mortar, Missile and Fire Support derivatives. The common turret structure, fitted with different weapon modules as well as a common platform, with variant specific fits will simplify the logistic support and reduce the cost of through-life support.

The Badger variants are equipped with various weapon systems. The main weapon system, used on the Section and Fire Support Variants, is the 30 mm externally-driven cam-operated cannon. This was developed by DLS, along with the 30 mm ammunition produced by Denel’s PMP division.

For the Mortar Variant, a 60 mm breech-loading long-range mortar was developed by DLS, along with 60 mm long-range NATO ammunition while the Ingwe anti-tank missile system, developed by Denel Dynamics, is used on the Missile Variant.

Burger said the Badger confirms Denel’s position as South Africa’s premier producer of world-class defence products and systems and a strategic partner of the SANDF.

The Badger project has already resulted in Malaysia ordering R3.5 billion worth of turrets and weapons from Denel, developed for the Badger.

The cost of the Badger programme amounts to R15.4 billion, up from the original estimate of R8 billion, according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

The order for the 238 vehicles was trimmed down from 264 due to funding constraints. “The total requirement of 264 vehicles as per the SA Army requirements was acknowledged, but because of available funds for the project, approval for 238 vehicles was granted to remain within the allocated funds,” the Minister said in February.

Military analyst Helmoed Heitman told Business Day the cost increase could be due to inflation as the original project was mooted some five years ago. The current contract also included spares, an item not in the original estimate.

The full fleet of Badgers will replace the Army’s ageing Ratels when deliveries conclude. Last year Denel said the first Badger would roll of its production facilities in October 15 but this timetable has slipped.

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