South Africa a key market for Ruag’s special mission Do 228NG aircraft


Swiss company Ruag Aviation sees Africa as a key market for special mission aircraft, and his homing in on South Africa. The company is offering its Do 228NG (New Generation) to meet the South African Air Force’s Project Saucepan requirement for a new maritime patrol/surveillance aircraft.

Klaus-Peter Leinauer, VP Sales and Marketing at Ruag, said his company was offering the Do 228NG in a public-private partnership (PPP) deal. The South African Air Force (SAAF) is looking for around 4-6 aircraft to replace its 70-year-old C-47TP Turbo Dakotas and is currently exploring a number of different options.

For Saucepan, Leinauer said that the South African Air Force “would like the best solution but budget is always a problem,” resulting in the proposal of the PPP deal. Under such a model, Ruag would raise capital to lease the aircraft, provide initial training, certification and maintenance, repair and overhaul. South Africa would provide crew training, hangaring, fuel and parts storage.

The German Navy’s Do 228NGs are operated through a public-private partnership, which Ruag says is a cost effective option. Leinauer said the German Navy’s Do 228NG conduct two sorties every day and discovered illegal activity once every several flights.

Leinauer noted that South Africa was not just interested in maritime surveillance but also had its porous land border to deal with. At some stage Ruag will demonstrate the Do 228 to the South African Air Force. Leinauer said Ruag had already given two presentations to the SAAF, which was very interested in its offering, particularly due to the PPP model. Ruag is prepared to discuss a ten-year deal involving 1 000 flight hours per year.

If the SAAF procured the Do 228NG, around 40% of the total package would be South African, such as sensors, maintenance etc. South African industry has the capability to provide sensors, communications equipment, maintenance and support and integrate systems through companies like Tellumat, Reutech, Carl Zeiss, Denel Aviation, Aerosud and Denel Aerostructures.

Leinauer said he believed there was a big market for special mission aircraft (intelligence, surveillance, targeting, acquisition and reconnaissance). “Africa will be one of our key markets going forward,” he said, noting the numerous peacetime threats facing the continent that a special mission aircraft would be able to address: piracy, threats to offshore energy assets, smuggling, pollution, illegal fishing, natural disasters etc.
“This task [special mission] is important for Africa…there is a big need for this,” Leinauer said. However, this has not been acknowledged widely enough and the acquisition of special mission aircraft often encounters political and funding obstacles.

In Africa and the Middle East, 45 legacy Do 228s are in service with 13 operators. The original Do 228, manufactured by Dornier, first flew in 1981. Production ended in 1998 after 250 aircraft had been delivered. Around 35 of the legacy Do 228s are used for surveillance – Nigeria has five for border patrol.

Following the insolvency of Fairchild-Dornier, Ruag acquired the Do 228 type certificate in 2003 and developed the Do 228NG, which was launched in 2007. Deliveries began in 2011 and eight have been sold so far, including to the Bangladeshi and German navies. Ruag estimates demand to be 300 aircraft over 20 years.

The Do 228NG features 300 improvements over the original airframe, including a glass cockpit with four liquid crystal displays, quieter five-bladed propellers and more powerful Honeywell TPE331-10 engines, which burn 200 kg of fuel per hour at patrol speeds.

Leinauer said one of the biggest advantages of the Do 228NG was its ability to be fitted with multiple sensors, allowing it to be customised for specific missions. Some of the sensors and equipment that can be added include a side-looking airborne radar, search radar, infrared linescaner, satellite communications, infrared/electro-optical sensor, laser designator etc. The main sensor would be a 360-degree search radar with a 40-100 nautical mile range. Other equipment could include a roller door for dropping life rafts, bubble windows, markers etc.

Some of the other companies pursuing Saucepan include Saab (Saab 340 MSA), Raytheon (King Air 350), HAL (Do 228) and Airbus Military (CN235/C295). ATR’s maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft, the ATR 42 MP Surveyor, is in service with Nigeria and also fits the bill.

Saab brought its 340 MSA (Maritime Surveillance Aircraft) out to the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition last month as part of its marketing efforts. Saab says its aircraft is ideal for the mission as it costs less than $20 million and as it uses zero-lifed 340 airliners, can make use of commercial service centres for cost effective operation. Sensors on the unarmed aircraft include a search radar (Telephonics RDR-1700B) and electro-optical infrared turrets (FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE), automatic identification system (AIS), as well as a multitude of options. For the SAAF requirement, Saab would make extensive use of local content, including optics and communications equipment.

L-3 is offering its Spydr and Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 for Saucepan, promoting the latter due to its low cost and long range. South African Express already operates the type. Local companies like Reutech, Tellumat, Carl Zeiss and Aerosud would supply local content, such as communications, sensors and components.

India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is also offering the Dornier 228 platform – it already has Do 228s flying with the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, as well as Mauritius (two) and the Seychelles has just bought one.

Former chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, who retired on September 28, said that the Saucepan project team was currently “looking at all options” and that the process will not be concluded overnight.