Denel Aeronautics has received a contract to produce A350 components for one of Airbus’s biggest suppliers.
Theo Kleynhans, in charge of Denel Group strategy, said that Denel Aeronautics is making A350-1000 pylon components for one of Airbus’s major suppliers. The company has done the industrialisation and produced a trial batch of 20 pylons ahead of mass production. It is the first substantial commercial aerospace item produced by the company outside the components for the Airbus Defence and Space A400M Atlas military transport.
On the commercial side, Denel Aeronautics continues to produce the winglets for a North American business jet, which are complex metallic/composite structures. In order to grow their businesses, Denel and Aerosud are both looking to get more aerostructures work in the commercial industry. Aerosud already makes over a million aircraft parts a year for Airbus, Boeing an others.
Kleynhans said that the recent merger of Denel Aerostructures and Aviation into Aeronautics has reduced costs as a lot of overheads have been integrated and scarce engineering skills are being shared.
There are obvious synergies between merging Aviation and Aerostructures – for instance Aerostructures makes the drop tanks for the Rooivalk attack helicopter, which Aviation supports, and the two have worked together on the Small African Regional Aircraft (SARA). Both companies are situated at Denel’s Kempton Park campus next to OR Tambo International Airport.
“Going forward, the Rooivalk upgrade is going to be a major focus area,” Kleynhans said, with Denel Aeronautics working towards the possible eventual production of new aircraft. This would entail industrialisation at Denel Aeronautics – already the old jigs are being dusted off. Although no orders have yet been forthcoming for the Rooivalk, Denel is working on that both locally and internationally.
Zwelakhe Ntshepe, Denel Group Acting CEO, said the Rooivalk is a flagship of South Africa and Denel has completed a study looking into the aircraft’s upgrade for the South African Air Force (SAAF). The next step would be to receive a contract from the SAAF to proceed with the upgrade. Ntshepe said the concept of a new production Rooivalk Mk II still exists, but will take a lot of investment to move forward. At the moment the main focus is on the upgrade programme.
Regarding the Small African Regional Aircraft (SARA) programme, Kleynhans said this remains in the concept design phase and Denel is seeking to obtain funding from the Joint Aerospace Steering Committee (JASC) to progress the project. In the meantime, Denel is continuing with the concept design phase. It has so far invested R40 million into this project. In addition to SARA, Denel’s other main research and development project is the Prowler unmanned helicopter.