Denel Land Systems (DLS) is making progress towards series production of the Badger infantry combat vehicle, with the Section variant close to reaching product baseline ahead of mass production for the South African Army.
Reenen Teubes, General Manager: Combat Systems at Denel Land Systems, told defenceWeb that the project has slipped, partly due to the complexities of developing all five major variants in parallel, with delivery of phase one contractually due by December 2018.
Denel Land Systems is concentrating on the Section variant, and this will be followed by the Command and Fire Support variants, which share more than 85% commonality. The Missile and Mortar variants will follow at a later stage, with the first Section variant vehicles to be delivered (possibly around 2021).
After working with Armscor on ironing out issues, Denel Land Systems will schedule a baseline review soon. Reenen said a lot of progress has been made on the Section variant, which will be the baseline for production. Section Variants preproduction models (PPMs) were successfully assembled and underwent a successful operational test and evaluation (OT&E) at De Brug in Bloemfontein.
According to Denel’s latest annual report, about 87% of development programme deliverables have been successfully concluded and accepted by Armscor, with the remaining work related mainly to integrated logistics support (ILS) and the Mortar and Missile variants. “Badger platform industrialisation assessment and preparation are in process with Denel Vehicle Systems (DVS) to ensure on time delivery of battalions based on a proposed new delivery schedule,” the annual report said.
Reenen said Denel is sitting on a lot of stock for production, so as soon as signoff is achieved, production can start right away. Mxolisi Makhatini, CEO of Denel Vehicle Systems and Denel Land Systems, cautioned that the COVID-19 novel coronavirus may disrupt the supply chain but many other components have been delivered. Reenen said this includes 30 mm CamGun ammunition from PMP and mortars from RDM. Commander and gunner sights are being acquired from Denel Mechatronics while Denel Dynamics is to deliver Ingwe anti-tank missiles.
There are more than 15 assembled common platforms and more than 20 Badger hulls available, which will provide enough stock for a year of production. VR Laser was tasked with supplying hulls but other supplier options are being examined after VR Laser was liquidated.
Ultimately, the South African Army hopes to receive 236 Badgers in nine variants (Section, Mortar, Command, Fire Support, Anti-tank, Ambulance, Signals, Logistics and Basic Artillery Observation System) under Project Hoefyster, with the vehicles partially replacing the Ratel fleet.
The Badger programme has lagged due to development issues with software, technical challenges, and liquidity problems following state capture. According to the 2019 Denel annual report, Denel incurred R65 million in penalties for the late delivery on Phase 2 of Project Hoefyster.
Nevertheless, the development phase has given Denel Land Systems the opportunity to create world class capabilities in weapons design, software engineering (including safety certification) amongst others and enabled the growth of promising young engineers.
The Badger has resulted in a successful export contract with Malaysia for turrets for that country’s AV8 armoured vehicles. In the previous financial year, Denel said it achieved major milestones with AV8 programme with the delivery of 50 of the LCT30 light combat turrets, 28 of the anti-tank guided-weapon turrets (ATGW), 28 of remote-controlled weapon station turret (RCWS) systems and 150 of the Ingwe anti-tank missiles.
Reenen said after the successful sale to Malaysia, other countries are exploring the possibility of acquiring turrets – the LCT30, for example, is platform agnostic and can be fitted to other armoured vehicle models.
Makhatini said although the 8×8 market is pretty saturated with a lot of competition, he believes the Badger is highly competitive and is a major achievement for the local industry. “We benchmark against the world’s best,” he said, with the locally developed 30 mm gun, mortar, turrets and other components and this has a hugely beneficial impact on the supply chain and defence industry as a whole.
“The benefits are very massive,” he said, with South Africa having the ability to sell the Badger and its subcomponents worldwide. “We can compare favourably with any other combat turret supplier internationally.”