AAD 2022 officially launched as half of exhibition space is booked out


Defence Minister Thandi Modise has officially launched the eleventh edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition, which will take place in Pretoria from 21 to 25 September and see participation from the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), oil and gas and other sectors.

Speaking at the launch ceremony at Tek Base in Lyttelton on Thursday morning, Modise said the Department of Defence had a vested interest in the defence industry, as “without it, we are done for.” She added that AAD shows off South Africa’s capabilities, and urged the defence industry to come together to rebuild the sector.

For the first time, the oil & gas and mining industries are invited to attend as the exhibition seeks to broaden its focus and include sectors that overlap with defence – recent events in places like Cabo Delgado and Nigeria show the need for security in mining and energy exploitation, for example. The relevant delegations will be brought to AAD to help attract companies from these industries.

Unmanned aerial vehicles will also be a big part of this year’s edition, with organisers hoping to include flying displays and demonstrations at Air Force Base Waterkloof – discussions are underway with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to make this happen.

Exhibition Director Michelle Nxumalo said it is exciting to be launching the eleventh edition of AAD during Africa Month, especially after a successful 2018 edition. Once again, the format is three trade days and two air show days, while three conferences will take place simultaneously with the show, including on cyber security and unmanned aviation.

Several national pavilions have already been confirmed, including China, India, Pakistan, the United States, Turkey, Italy, the United Kingdom and Belgium. The Czech Republic has withdrawn in solidarity of Ukraine while Ukraine and Russia are unlikely to participate due to the events in Europe.

Sandile Ndlovu, Executive Director of AMD, said the conflict in Ukraine is beneficial for AAD because Russia is concentrating on Ukraine, leaving a vacuum in Africa. The Russians cannot supply or support Africa, leaving the door open for African countries. He told defenceWeb that there is a lot of demand for defence products in Europe, but European and even American companies are struggling to cope, creating opportunities for African companies to fill the gap.

Milkor is the diamond sponsor for this year’s event, but Reutech is also a lead sponsor. Milkor Director Phasha Ramokgopa said the absence of the 2020 edition of AAD could be felt across the sector and there have been many changes since the last iteration in 2018. Milkor, for one, has developed a long-endurance medium altitude UAV that can be armed, putting South Africa amongst an elite seven nations that have Category Four (over 600 kg) UAV platforms, “a truly phenomenal feat showcasing the capabilities of South Africa.”

In spite of its troubles, Denel will be taking part in AAD 2022. Modise said that Denel is crumbling and its intellectual property is “flying off our borders,” but the Department of Defence is determined that Denel will be resuscitated, in whatever form. She said the defence industry needs to be rebuilt and that industry must demonstrate patriotism and showcase its products for the Department of Defence to buy.

AAD is a partnership between South Africa’s Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD), the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (CAASA) and the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor), with full support from the Department of Defence (DoD) and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC). The organisers expect AAD 2022 to contribute R1 billion to the South African economy and create2 000 jobs.

Once again, a youth development programme will be incorporated into AAD, with the aim of getting youngsters interested in aviation and defence and the skills, like maths and science, needed for those career paths. Kholisile Khumalo, Chair of the Youth Development Programme (YDP), said AAD has touched the lives of 100 000 learners and in the past, the youth development initiatives have seen 5 000 scientific calculators donated to learners as well as thousands of dignity packs for female learners, and numerous science laboratories provided to schools. So far, R250 000 has been raised for youth development this year, including R150 000 from Armscor and R50 000 from Hensoldt. Khumalo said R3 million is needed to reach 10 000 learners this year.

“The YDP has touched the lives of thousands of learners…My request is that you become the spark that ignites the career of young girls or young boys to become aeronautical engineers and pilots,” he said.