Today was definitely not just another Monday at Denel Aerostructures (DAe), with engineers, artisans and technicians taking some time off to watch a live video link-up of the handover of the first production A400M to the French Air Force (Armee De L’Air) at Airbus Military’s facility in Seville, Spain.
The Kempton Park-based member of the Denel Group is the only Tier One supplier of manufactured components to Airbus Military for the new generation airlifter outside of Europe. It is executing three work packages.
The latest package is for the manufacture of the ribs, spars and swords, comprising the internal structure of the A400M’s distinctive T-tail and is worth about R200 million. It was concluded in June this year during the Paris Airshow and will run for the duration of the entire A400M build programme, Denel chairman Zoli Kunene said.
“This is another demonstration of Airbus Military’s confidence in Denel and South Africa’s design and manufacturing capability, coupled with the ability to deliver on time with within budget,” he said.
In terms of a contract re-negotiated a year ago, DAe is responsible for two other A400M work packages involving the design, engineering and fabrication of the wing-to-fuselage fairings and the fuselage top shell. The wing-to-fuselage fairing is the single largest aerospace component ever produced in South Africa and provides an aerodynamic shroud over sensitive equipment in the A400M’s centre wing. The fairing protects the equipment from lightning, hail damage and bird strikes.
The fuselage top shells are made up of more than 1 100 individual parts and a large machined skin, engineered out of an aluminium alloy. Each A400M is fitted with two top shells, positioned in front and behind the wings where they join the fuselage. They are fitted with over 1 000 brackets which support electrical and electronic wiring, hot air and heat exchange pipes and the aircraft’s emergency life rafts.
The live link-up with Spain gave DAe employees the opportunity of seeing aircraft componentry produced by them in flight on a production A400M for the first time.
“This is a celebration of South African innovation and our high-tech manufacturing capabilities. We are participating with great success and confidence in the most ambitious multi-national aircraft production process ever. It shows that we have the skills and capacity in South Africa to manufacture sophisticated aerostructure components and we are ready to contribute to the growth of the home-grown aerospace industry,” Denel chief executive Riaz Saloojee told the DAe team.
Airbus currently has orders for 174 of the new generation airlifters earmarked for EU and NATO countries. South Africa was also in line to acquire the A400M but this deal was cancelled by previous Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu.