Department of Defence to announce partnership with Embraer

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Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said her department hopes to soon publicly announce a partnership with Brazil’s Embraer on the manufacture and repair of aircraft in South Africa.

Modise was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday 23 May during the defence budget vote debate. “We are hoping that soon we will be able to announce, publicly, … the partnership with Embraer of Brazil to manufacture and to repair in South Africa. It would be a boost to our defence industry. It will also enable us to force our own government to put more money in,” she said.

Her comments come two weeks after Brazilian Air Force commander Lieutenant Brigadier Marcelo Kanitz Damasceno told the Brazilian senate’s Foreign Relations and National Defense Committee that Brazil is negotiating with several countries to sell the Embraer KC-390 Millennium tactical transport aircraft, including South Africa.

Damasceno said that South Africa as well as Austria, the Czech Republic, Egypt, India, Rwanda, South Korea, and Sweden are potential buyers for the KC-390, which has already been purchased by Brazil, Hungary, and Portugal.

The KC-390 can transport up to 26 metric tons of cargo at a maximum speed of to (850 km/h). It has a range of 6 000 km.

In February, National Treasury granted the South African Air Force (SAAF) an extra R1 billion towards rejuvenating the “medium air transport capability” of the SAAF. Funding will be spent on the six remaining C-130BZ Hercules in the fleet (the SAAF had nine serviceable examples but two have been written off in accidents and one has been cannibalised for spares).

In January, Chief of the SAAF Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo said “in our road going forward, the medium lift capability is right in the centre of our attention. Also, there is a lot of talk around the strategic lift capability. This is not a surprise as to why this capability is being mentioned. The reality we face is South Africa is not in a strategic position. Our location cannot be changed. We need to have very strong legs to connect ourselves to the rest of the continent and the world.”

The SAAF spends millions of rands chartering aircraft to rotate troops and equipment from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique as it does not have sufficient airworthy transport aircraft.

In her budget vote debate address, Modise gave no further details on collaboration with Embraer. She did mention that the Chief of the SANDF “has been instructed to find ways to rejuvenate the SANDF. It is not just about recruiting people, it is also about looking at systems, and upgrading, rejuvenating capabilities, finding ways of preserving and maintaining.”