SA exported R3.3 billion worth of military hardware in 2021


The South African defence industry exported R3.3 billion worth of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to 67 countries around the world last year, according to the latest figures from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC).

Briefing Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on Thursday, NCACC chair Mondli Gungubele revealed that in 2021, 574 export permits to 67 countries were authorised, worth R3.35 billion.

According to the latest NCACC annual report, one of the largest single exports in 2021 was for ‘warships’ – four unspecified vessels worth R208 million went to Djibouti. The East African nation also acquired R100 million worth of unspecified ‘weapons’.

Another notable export was worth R79 million, for nine aircraft that went to the United States – these are almost certainly ex-SAAF Cheetahs sold by Denel. On the aviation side, three unmanned aerial vehicles worth R600 000 went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while three helicopters (most likely second hand Gazelles and Mi-17s) went to Mozambique (R6 million).

Ammunition, bombs and rockets accounted for a significant portion of South African defence exports in 2021, with hundreds of millions of rands worth being exported. Bombs and rockets worth a combined R183 million were delivered to Germany, Kuwait, the Philippines, the UAE, and Zambia.

Ammunition worth nearly R740 million was exported to Germany, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Philippines, Turkey, Qatar, and the UAE. The biggest customers were Qatar (R249 million) and Germany (R261 million). This was most likely for artillery and other ammunition from Rheinmetall Denel Munition.

Armoured vehicle sales were somewhat sluggish in 2021, with Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Thailand, Togo, the UAE and Somalia acquiring just 69 armoured combat vehicles (nearly 140 vehicles were exported in 2020). Mozambique likely received nine Marauder vehicles, worth R59 million. Mali most likely received Puma M26s.

The NCACC lists ‘large calibre artillery’ worth over R20 million being exported to Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, and Switzerland. Numerous ‘light weapons’ worth R245 million were delivered to over a dozen countries, with the largest customers being Angola (224 weapons – R3.6 million), France, (215 weapons – R48 million), the Philippines (178 weapons – R17 million), Thailand (130 weapons – R10 million), and the UAE (47 weapons – R20 million).

South Africa is renowned for its electronic warfare technology and defence electronics and in 2021 exported more than R210 million worth of electronic warfare equipment to 18 countries. The biggest contracts came from Sweden (R42 million), Mozambique (R11 million), India (R26 million), Greece (R22 million), and Brazil (R65 million).

‘Electronic equipment’ also did well, with just over R1 billion exported to several dozen countries. This included communications, electronic and measuring equipment as well as countermeasures, observation systems and target acquisition systems. Big customers included Bangladesh (R95 million for communications equipment), India (R105 million for communications equipment), Mali (R40 million – communications), Myanmar (R47 million – communications), Belgium (R51 million for target acquisition/observation systems), Germany (R57 million for target acquisition/observation systems), and Turkey (R592 million for observation equipment).

Last year, 93 export permits for dual use goods and technologies worth R214 million were authorised to 25 countries. Dual use items exported in 2021 included armour to Cameroon, Somalia and the UAE (R30 million total); electronics to Korea and Pakistan (R21 million); communication equipment (over R80 million to over a dozen countries); several millions of rands worth of information security systems; radars to Indonesia (R3.6 million); and unmanned aerial vehicles.

A total of 86 UAVs were exported to eight countries (more than R70 million total). The largest customer was Indonesia, which acquired 40 UAVs for R24 million.

In 2021, a total of 279 import permits were authorised from 32 countries, with a value of R121 million. These covered 84 small arms and light weapons worth nearly R40 million. Bombs or rockets (288 of them) were acquired from Italy for R18 million while other imports included electronic warfare, communications and observation equipment from France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, the UK and several other countries – defence electronics accounted for around R60 million worth of imports.