IP for SAAF C-130BZ avionics held by UK company

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With work – including addressing “immediate and urgent obsolescence issues” underway on SA Air Force (SAAF) C-130BZ Hercules (409) in England – the reply to a Parliamentary question brought to light the company awarded the work holds the IP (intellectual property) for the avionics suite of the ageing medium airlifters.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise told questioner Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for her portfolio, that Marshall Aerospace of Cambridge is the current IP holder of the avionics suite fitted to the SAAF C-130BZs as it in the early 2000s worked on the SAAF Hercules fleet under Project Ebb, among others fitting digital avionics, giving the aircraft ‘glass’ cockpits.

Marais was further informed by Modise that Marshall was awarded a maintenance contract in line with the “Armscor contracting process” which saw four respondents to the issued Request for Information (RfI). Denel, she added, responded to the RfI but, could not conduct “additional major servicing” with a lone maintenance bay capable of handling an aircraft the size of the four-engined transporter. One aircraft is currently in the Denel servicing bay undergoing maintenance, her response reads, in part. Marshall Aerospace is servicing, adding ADS-B transponders and replacing secondary flight display systems on the SAAF Hercules.

The R470 million Marshall contract, as per the Ministerial reply, will see major servicing of two SAAF C-130BZs and “mandatory update kits and equipment” for the other four C-130BZs on the strength of 28 Squadron at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof. The contract, which started in August and has a July 2026 completion date, makes provision for training of both Denel and SAAF technical personnel.

All work on the first two aircraft – 409 and 405 – will be done at Marshalls with “further updates and servicing in-country at the SAAF MRO (maintenance and repair organisation) by Marshall together with Denel and SAAF members”.

The shadow minister’s attempt to draw Modise on more Denel – particularly Denel Aeronautics – involvement in future C-130BZ maintenance was unsuccessful.

Marais asked the Defence and Military Veterans Minister whether her department was in discussion with Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) as regards “the upgrade, service and maintenance of strategic prime mission airframes”. He was told the SAAF cannot comment as the discussions would be “conducted at departmental level” with the rider of a currently in-force Denel product system support contract due to end in December 2026.