Blast-protected seats for Africa


South African power systems specialist Aztec has expanded its business line to include blast-protected seating solutions, which have been installed on a number of locally designed and built armoured vehicles.

According to Dean Marcus, a Director at Aztec, the company is the local agent for Mobius, which has installed its combat-proven blast-protected seats on more than 45 different vehicles types in 26 countries, with about 13 000 seats supplied.

In South Africa, customers include the Bruisertech Bruiser 112 vehicle, which has successfully undergone blast trials, the OTT Puma Mk 36, and a 4×4 armoured vehicle that has been exported in small numbers.

A Bruiser 112 undergoing blast testing.

Marcus explained that there is a worldwide trend towards blast protected seats as militaries spend more on protecting their troops, who are becoming more costly to train. Although armoured vehicles often successfully stop the hull from being breached by an explosion, the shock of the blast can damage internal organs, break bones and cause other injuries that can be prevented with blast-protected seats.

The seats Aztec offers are ITAR free and certified and tested up to NATO’s STANAG Level 4 standards. Several seats are available, including driver, co-driver, gunner and troop versions. The driver’s seat is typically fully adjustable while the gunner’s seat, for example, folds down so it can be stood on.

Looking forward, Marcus sees solid demand for blast-protected seats as the armoured vehicle market remains robust in the face of terrorism in Africa and insecurity elsewhere around the world.

Aztec, established in 1979, mainly focusses on power systems, specialising in the design, development and integration of high performance, speciality batteries and related components for the aerospace, defence, renewable energy, telecoms, UPS and other markets. In the mining sector it designs and manufactures equipment such as transformers, mini-subs, battery chargers, battery tripping units, loco controllers and a wide range of other specialised equipment.

About half Aztec’s business comes from the commercial sector and half from the defence industry. The South African Air Force (SAAF) has long been a customer, and some of Aztec’s major achievements over the past four decades include the conversion of nearly all SAAF aircraft from maintenance intensive nickel cadmium batteries to maintenance-free high-performance lead acid batteries; the design and installation of fixed 400 Hz and DC ground power units at SAAF bases around the country; the design and development, together with local and international partners, of the ground power unit for the Cheetah fighter jet and the combination ground power and conditioned air unit for the Gripen fighter jet; and the design and manufacture of portable and vehicle mounted DC aircraft starters for a variety of aircraft including the Rooivalk attack helicopter and Mirage fighter jet.

Aztec is still the main supplier of aircraft batteries to the SAAF and continues to maintain certain specialised ground power and conditioned air units.

Aztec is the only battery specific Aircraft Maintenance Organisation in South Africa approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. Aztec’s aerospace products include ground power units, conditioned air units, aircraft batteries, battery shop equipment, airfield lights and beacons, and bird deterrent systems.

On the landward side, Aztec supplies a lot of ground vehicle batteries to the defence industry including to the SA Army. Its defence product range also includes transparent armour, flexible and self-sealing fuel tanks, portable power packs, test and measure equipment and other specialised equipment.

Marcus told defenceWeb that Aztec is very busy with the development and supply of battery anti-theft solutions for the commercial sector, especially the telecommunications industry. Its patented solutions have been deployed to more than 3 500 sites in South Africa to protect lead acid and lithium batteries from theft.