Hensoldt South Africa pushing local technology


Defence and security electronics company Hensoldt South Africa is providing home-grown technology to the world as it presses ahead with its drive to become the leading defence electronics and security solutions provider in South Africa.

Speaking to defenceWeb at a recent Hensoldt capability demonstration overlooking the picturesque Simon’s Town Naval Base, Sihle Mayisela, Executive of Strategic Affairs for Hensoldt SA, noted that the strategy of Hensoldt SA was to grow both organically and via acquisitions.

Hensoldt South Africa is the corporate brand of the South African companies within the Hensoldt group, with each company having its own shareholding structure.

With a headcount of approximately 800 local employees and combined revenues in excess of R1.7 billion, Hensoldt SA sees significant synergies between the various units, leveraging complementary expertise and integrating products to create new solutions. This includes technologies from other Hensoldt companies internationally.

Mayisela says that one of the reasons for hosting the capability demonstrations was to showcase South African developed technology to the local defence, paramilitary and civilian security industry.

“We are here to showcase to the South African industry that there is world-class technology in South Africa that can benefit our local military and security forces,” Mayisela explained. “These products are not only for the military, they are also for paramilitary forces, security for border and coastal management.”

Hensoldt SA does not inherit technology from its German corporate parent and designs and develops all its products in South Africa, while leveraging the sales network of the Hensoldt group.

Said Mayisela: “The R&D is here, it’s managed by South Africans. All the companies are run by South Africans.”

What the German shareholder does assist with, however, is expanding sales channels to international markets.

“It’s a very good win-win solution, but we take pride in the fact that the technology we develop is coming from the brains of South Africans.”

Showcased at the event was a selection of Hensoldt SA’s technologies that are developed locally and sold both locally and internationally. Representing the Optronics portfolio, were the ARGOS-II observation system, specifically designed for ISR missions, the newly launched Bushbaby land-based long range electro optical sensor, and submarine mast solutions. Spectrum dominance capabilities on show were a range of signals intelligence solutions and the Xpeller counter-drone system.

The newcomer to the Hensoldt portfolio, the ASTUS unmanned aerial vehicle, was also on display. This platform is designed for a variety of airborne surveillance and monitoring applications.

Hensoldt also utilises South African expertise to develop technologies for the Group. The SERO 250 submarine periscope retrofit solution was contracted to the South Africa unit by the German parent to develop the full periscope..

Despite its home-grown origins, more than 80% of the Hensoldt SA’s business is from overseas sales.

“Our focus is to expand the local market… We also believe in the South African market. We believe that South Africans should benefit from the technology that we’ve developed, as opposed to (international) clients benefitting more.”

On this front, Hensoldt SA is also engaging closely with local clients to establish what solutions they require. An example is GEW, which is working in collaboration with the South African National Defence Force to determine what is best suited to integrate into the defence force environment. Hensoldt SA is also collaborating with industry at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

As Ferri Erasmus, Head of Communications for Hensoldt SA explained: “Our strategy is not just to tell South Africa what works, but to work with industry to determine what it needs.”

“We want to create a culture of SA Inc, so that everybody benefits at the end of the day,” Mayisela added. “Moving forward, we actually want to focus on developing and partnering with SMMEs as well as expanding our collaboration with other South African companies.”

Hensoldt traces is entry into the South African industry to 2012, when Airbus acquired shares in Carl Zeiss Optronics and its South African branch of operations and 2014, when GEW’s major shareholder, EADS, was renamed to Airbus. In 2017, Airbus’ electronics business was carved out and became Hensoldt. Today, Hensoldt holds 70% shares in the Optronics business unit and 75% shares in the GEW business unit of Hensoldt South Africa. The remaining shares are held by Denel and Kunene Finance Company respectively. Both business units remain South African legal entities.

Hensoldt South Africa was formed in September 2019 when Hensoldt Optronics and GEW Technologies were consolidated under a single brand.

Most recently, the Air Traffic Management (ATM) and Defence & Security business units of Tellumat were acquired by Hensoldt South Africa at the end of 2020 to form the Hensoldt SA Radar business unit. Products include radar, IFF, datalink, air traffic management and the ASTUS unmanned aerial vehicle.