Badger set for public debut at Armed Forces Day

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An upbeat Mike Kgobe, interim Denel chief executive, has let personnel at the State-owned defence and technology conglomerate know seven Badgers – “our very own infantry combat vehicle (ICV)” – will be in the landward force line-up for Armed Forces Day (AFD) in Richards Bay.

He writes of his “great joy” which comes with the long-delayed Ratel replacement making its public debut at a day when “the South African population honours the men and women of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) by affirming their support and gratitude to them”.

The Badger, under Project Hoefyster, was conceived in June 2007 with a then expected delivery of the first vehicles in May 2012. That this did not happen is history and Hoefyster has been the subject of much discussion around alternate plans to ensure the SA Army eventually takes the new eight-wheeled fighting vehicle into service.  As far as is known five main variants will come out of Denel Land Systems (DLS) Lyttelton, Centurion, production facility with Denel not committing to delivery dates.

What is known are some Finnish Patria infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) were brought to South Africa for the development of South African prototypes and then production vehicles, to be called Badger in acknowledgement to its predecessor the Ratel (badger in Afrikaans). The lack of progress over the years was attributed variously to mismanagement at Denel and what is called “State capture” (grand corruption) in South Africa.

An Armscor presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) last year revealed that Hoefyster is more or less presently paused with parts of the development phase at various stages of completion. They are 72% of hull and turret items common to all variants; 84% of the lead – Section – variant; 83% of the Fire Support variant; 73% of the Command variant; 44% of the Mortar variant and 53% of the Missile variant.

Completed as per phase two (industrialisation and production) are locally developed 30 mm CamGuns and ammunition; 60 mm long range mortar bombs; 15 Patria vehicle platforms; 64 training simulators and four pre-production models of the Section variant.

The movement of seven Badgers to Richards Bay is, according to Kgobe, “positive”.

“It re-affirms Denel’s locally designed and produced Badger which is the culmination of decades of research, testing and development that produced a mature vehicle which will provide South African soldiers with unrivalled firepower, mobility and maximum armoured protection.”

Kgobe added: “Our participation will afford us an opportunity to showcase our capability and the critical role we play in supporting the SANDF. This also bodes with our progress and bold steps of streamlining and refocusing our operations to build a sustainable business and return to profitability.

“We remain an innovative company with the ability to evolve and deliver world-class products across the spectrum of aerospace, defence and related technologies – from land to sea, to air, to the cyber and security environments.”

SANDF exhibitions and events in support of Armed Forces Day 2023 start today (15 February) when a fan park opens at the uMhlathuze central sports complex in Richards Bay Central. AFD events culminate in a parade on 21 February through Richards Bay and an address by President Cyril Ramaphosa, wearing his Commander-in-Chief hat.