South Africa's defence industry could benefit from the honing and re-establishment of the capabilities required for defence aircraft weapons integration, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) aerospace contract research and development manager John Wesley says.
“Undertaking weapons integration locally gives South Africa strategic independence and will enable the country to compete in the international market with its knowledge and skills,” he says.
Over the past two years, the CSIR has been working on honing and, in some cases, re-establishing the capabilities required for weapons integration to allow for the safe carriage and release of the new weapons.
These include special computational fluid dynamics; analytical and simulation tools; as well as flutter clearance work.
The CSIR and industry have pooled their collective expertise and the first- order carriage and release predictions have been supplied to the South African Air Force (SAAF).
Initially, when the SAAF acquired the Hawk and the Gripen aircraft, the original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) were to undertake any future weapons integration on these aircraft, owing to the aircraft's complex integrated weapons delivery navigation systems.
“As the OEMs were responsible for the integrations, and the demand and investments subsequently reduced for industry, it was challenging to maintain the capabilities of these technologies,” says Wesley.
However, a price quoted by the OEMs for a new air-to-surface weapon for the aircraft was beyond the financial means of the SAAF budget and in-country options were examined.
“With South African aerospace company Advanced Technologies & Engineering's weapons navigation system, State-owned arms manufacturer Denel's weapons techno- logy and the CSIR's research facilities, and intellectual property on and knowledge of these aircraft, the industry saved the SAAF a substatial amount of the cost of integrating weapons on the aircraft,” he says.