Alkantpan UAV testing an Armscor highlight

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The lifting of COVID-19 regulations and an increase in demand for suitable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) test sites put Armscor’s Alkantpan test range back on the map, as it were, in the 2022/23 financial year.

The State-owned company resorting under management of Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) saw the disappearance of the restrictive COVID-19 regulations in April 2022 result in 16 tests of all kinds undertaken at the 85 000 hectare Northern Cape Province range in the last financial year, up from two in the 2021/22 financial year.

The range hosted its first loitering munitions testing – where ground targets were engaged by aerial vehicles fitted with explosive devices – during the period under review.

UAVs are, according to the report, a significant highlight. “There was a significant increase in requests received, during the reporting period, with actual UAV testing anticipated in the near future.”

Of the 16 tests at the range, these included weapons ranging from 20 to 127 mm being fired.

Alkantpan is now in its 36th year of existence with sparse vegetation, low rainfall and long firing distances easily accommodated on the 67 km long and 13 km wide range making it well suited for conventional ammunition testing (longer range testing can also be conducted once approval from neighbouring farms is obtained – inert ammunition testing can be done up to 80 km).

While the Armscor 2022/23 annual report gives no Alkantpan user names, previous reports have and they include the German Bundeswehr and Diehl Defence Bodensee Geraete Technik (BGT) Defence, also from Germany, and Italy’s Oto Melara. Rheinmetall Waffen Munition and Rheinmetall Defence of Germany as well as the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) of The Netherlands conducted tests with German and South African qualified ammunition previously.

Past South African users include Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM), Denel (in the form of its Dynamics, Land Systems and Pretoria Metal Pressings operations), BAE Systems, Reutech Fuchs and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), with some tests demonstrations for foreign clients.