Brazilian defence minister briefed on Denel Dynamics missile range


Brazil’s Minister of Defence Fernando Azevedo was briefed by Denel Dynamics on its missile range, including the A-Darter, Umkhonto and Marlin, during his recent visit to the country, and discussed future work share between Brazil and Denel.

Azevedo was invited to attend the South African Presidential Inauguration late last month and whilst here, visited the Denel Group on the morning of 27 May. He was hosted by Denel Group CEO, Danie du Toit, who said he would like to continue the relationship between Brazil and South Africa.

Japie Mare, the A-Darter Programme Manager, gave a presentation on the history and the current status of the A-Darter missile showing the success of the programme and the future work share between Denel and the Brazilian industry.

Development of the A-Darter began under Project Assegai in 1995 but funding cuts put development on hold until Brazil joined the programme in 2006. Test firings began in 2010 and product baseline was established in 2018, paving the way for industrialisation and manufacturing. The South African Air Force placed a production contract with Denel for the missile in March 2015, with the first four trainer missiles scheduled for delivery in the 2018/19 financial year and the final batch of operational missiles scheduled for delivery in the 2021 calendar year.

Due to funding constraints the weapon will only be carried by the South African Air Force’s Gripen C/D jets. In Brazil, the A-Darter will equip the Air Force’s 36 new Gripen E/F fighters.

Jaco Botha, Air Defence Manager at Denel Dynamics, spoke about the Marlin beyond visual range (BVR) missile and discussed the current opportunity for collaboration on BVR missiles between South Africa and Brazil.

The Umkhonto surface-to-air missile system was presented to the delegation by Erick Huysamer, Business Development Manager for the weapon. The performance of the infrared-homing Umkhonto-IR missile was illustrated by means of videos captured at flight trials in South Africa and abroad. This was followed by the status of the extended range Umkhonto-EIR and radar-guided Umkhonto-R and confirming that Denel is now contracted for the development and production of the Umkhonto-R missile. Denel confirmed that the design of the Umkhonto missile range is suitable for deployment in a naval as well as a ground based air defence system.

There has been talk of developing the Umkhonto into an air-to-air missile, with interest from the Brazilian Air Force for its Gripens to give them a beyond visual range capability.

The minister was taken on a facility tour through Denel Dynamics where he had the opportunity to see the air-to-air product portfolio and the rest of the product offering of the company.

“There is a real desire to continue with the relationship that has been established over many years and to explore future opportunities. There is a requirement from both countries to build capabilities and share work between the two industries,” Denel said of the Minister’s visit.

On the manufacturing side of the A-Darter and development of Umkhonto and Marlin missiles, Botha said there is an opportunity for industry to participate and to grow the skills base to support the product. This will be dependent on funding from both the Brazilian Ministry of Defence and the South African Department of Defence. “The respective teams look forward to extending the relationship into the future,” Denel said.

Azevedo told the Denel delegation that there is a new political environment in Brazil following the election of a new president who has a military background and good understanding of the armed forces. He added that Brazil is a vast country with an airspace that needs to be controlled 24 hours a day and that he is looking at means of improving the capabilities of the armed forces, which is what brought him to Denel. He said there is a basis for further work share opportunities with Denel in the future and that Brazil is interested in surface-to-air technology.