Another illustration of the South African defence industry’s decline came in response to a Parliamentary question revealing 15 Denel-built G6 self-propelled howitzers are under repair, three of them for close to three years.
The deterioration of South Africa’s once internationally respected defence industry is reflected in the reply given to Democratic Alliance (DA) deputy shadow public enterprises minister, Michelle Clarke.
Information supplied by Denel, apparently to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, has it 15 of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) artillery pieces, at one time widely regarded as the epitome of long range ground-based weaponry, are “in process of repair” as part of the Project Muhali upgrade programme at Denel Land Systems (DLS).
Based on its Lyttelton, Centurion, property, DLS is the lead contractor on Project Hoefyster, the much-delayed manufacture and supply of a new infantry combat vehicle to replace the SA Army’s ageing Ratels. When unveiled over 43 years ago Ratel was the first wheeled vehicle of its type in the world – another notable development by South African engineers and technicians in the then local defence industry.
Clarke was told three GV6 vehicles, as the artillery system is known, were delivered to DLS in September 2018 with a further 11 following in April the next year. One was “stationed” at DLS “to be ready for parades, shows, etc. as required by the SA Army.”
Delays in completing the upgrades to the weapon systems, Clarke was told, “are primarily due to Denel challenges to procure required spares and replacement items” for Muhali upgrades.
The now 34-year-old G6 system had various gun and munitions upgrades with a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) requirement to address system obsolescence identified in 2014. Project Muhali called for redevelopment and supply of obsolete component alternatives, including testing and qualification; fitment of the alternatives to a fleet leader platform and logistic development of components.
Upgrades in terms of Project Muhali, Clarke was informed, are expected to be complete by March 2023 rather than June 2021 as originally planned.
Total value of Project Muhali is, according to Denel, worth R144 million.