The SA Army is unlikely to see any Badger infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) supposed to be procured under the more than a decade old Project Hoefyster, with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise conceding no progress was made in recent years and Armscor recommends cancelling the contract.
Is the project to replace the Ratel and its variants with the Badger and its variants cancelled, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais wanted to know from the Minister.
Replying to his parliamentary question, Modise’s written response dated 15 May reads in part “Denel, by their own written admission, has conceded that they cannot complete Project Hoefyster within specification, budget or timescale.”
“Over the past three years there has been virtually no progress on the project due to financial and capacity constraints within Denel. As a responsible acquisition agency, the board of directors of Armscor resolved during December 2021 to cancel the Project Hoefyster industrialisation and production contract on Denel in principle, conditional on engagement with all relevant stakeholders.
“Based on a recommendation by the SA Army, Armscor submitted to the DoD (Department of Defence) Acquisition Forums that Project Hoefyster be deferred upon completion of Phase One (Development) by Denel. Completion of Phase One would imply that a baseline would be established for the future industrialisation and production of the range of vehicles, should funding become available and sufficient capacity within the domestic defence industry exist. Completion of Phase One and establishing an acceptable baseline would imply [that] the cost of development would not be regarded as fruitless and wasteful.”
She further informs Marais R200 million is needed to complete the development phase over a three year period. Production, Modise states, will take six years, again funding dependent. It would cost an estimated R9 billion.
Canning Hoefyster does not affect the need of the SA Army, particularly its Infantry Formation, for an IFV to replace the Ratel, currently in service for 48 years and when taken into use, the first wheeled IFV.
Options to provide another IFV to the landward force include a Ratel upgrade. This would use engines, gearboxes and other components acquired for Hoefyster. Modise told Marais investigation of the “most appropriate and cost effective solution” would only start when the Hoefyster cancellation is confirmed.
“The DoD supports the pursuance of a replacement for the Ratel ICV in order to stimulate and support the South African defence industry (SADI)” as well as maintain specialist capabilities, Modise states with a warning to end her reply.
“The pursuance of an acquisition of a replacement or upgrade of the Ratel would be subject to sufficient funds being allocated to the DoD to meet the requirement.”
Spending on Hoefyster, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) heard in February, is R7.6 billion to date. When VAT, escalation and the ubiquitous “other costs” are included, Armscor values the entire project at R16.2 billion.
Hoefyster was planned to deliver 246 Badger vehicles to partially replace the long-serving Ratels. Five variants – command, missile, section, fire support and mortar – were announced for the new wheeled vehicles.
Denel is unable to complete Project Hoefyster due to insufficient capability. Earlier this year Armscor recommended cancelling the Badger contract as Denel Land Systems (DLS) cannot deliver and recalling R1.4 billion in bank guarantees as well as R550 million covered by Denel. Hoefyster items worth R1.2 billion could be sold off.
Interim Denel Chief Executive William Hlakoane told defenceWeb Hoefyster, which is a dozen years late, suffered a myriad of issues, including scope creep as well as designing and building simultaneously. “We are still committed to deliver, but not under the same budget,” he said. “Is there still a need for the full 220 Badgers? The SA Army survived so far without it. Maybe we only need to supply 60 to 80.” A final decision will be made by Armscor and the DoD.