South African companies have a big presence at the Middle East’s largest defence show, IDEX, which opened on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. There are about 30 South African companies at the show, with about 25 on the South African stand – Paramount, Milkor, Etion Create, and S-Plane have their own stands.
Milkor, which has previously sold into the Gulf market, says it is negotiating a $100 million deal with a country that it cannot disclose.
The show serves a large and growing market of considerable importance to South Africa. Defence spending in Gulf Cooperation Council member states – United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, grew at about 6 percent last year. Qatar has had a diplomatic fall out with Saudi Arabia and other members of the council.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are leading customers for SA defence exports. Sales have also been made to Oman. Last year the Saudis, who are keen to develop their defence industry, showed an interest in buying into troubled state owned company Denel, but the SA government turned down the offer. This may have been motivated by the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In 2017, the latest year for which data is publicly available, about half of total SA defence exports of R3.4 billion were sold to countries in the Middle East. Growth in spending is likely to continue for some time due to regional instability. The wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as continuing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, are driving force modernization across the region.
According to the most recent Report of the SA National Conventional Arms Control Committee, which covers 2017, the United Arab Emirates bought nearly R1 billion worth of South African equipment. This included large orders of armoured personnel carriers, mortar bombs, and 40 mm grenade rounds.
While SA defence companies face competition from US, UK and French companies as well as Chinese and Turkish suppliers, a number of local executives said SA could still do well. Even Israel has made defence sales to Saudi Arabia, according to The Jerusalem Post.
After the murder of Khashoggi last year, Germany imposed a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia. According to the Financial Times this could prevent BAE Systems from supplying some parts for the Saudi’s Eurofighter planes. SA has remained quiet on the Khashoggi murder, thereby potentially helping secure SA’s position as a continued supplier to the Saudis.
SA defence executives say that many of their competitor products are highly sophisticated and are in the upper price range. SA companies can often do well with less sophisticated products in a lower price bracket.
Paramount unveiled a new armoured vehicle, the Mbombe 4×4, at the show on 17 February and says it will be marketing its unmanned aerial vehicle solutions and its Mwari plaform, the weaponised version of its AHRLAC aircraft. The company says its “portable manufacturing model” allows it to meet the needs of countries keen to develop their own defence industry and meet the requirements of countries in the region keen to develop their own defence industries.
Other SA companies are also pushing UAV solutions at the show. S-Plane, which says it has existing customers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will be marketing a range of solutions for conversion of manned to unmanned aircraft.
Among the products Tellumat is promoting at Idex this week is its ASTUS unmanned aerial system (UAS), which the company launched at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Exhibition at Waterkloof last year. The company sees the medium-range surveillance UAS as cost competitive when compared to the offerings from other countries.
Desert Wolf says it will also be marketing its UAV capability at the show. The company has a variety of products including a Global Near Space Aerostat (aerial balloon system), the Skunk Riot Control UAV, the Black Hornet micro helicopter UAV, and its Hawk Aerial System for high speed “track and follow” applications.
At IDEX, Desert Wolf will also be marketing its BOMA Diesel Fired Military Field kitchen system. The company is to supply 30 of these field kitchens to the South African National Defence Force under Project Teamster.
Milkor has its unmanned aerial vehicles on display as well as its 4X4 armoured personnel carrier, and a model of its new 8×8 vehicle, which is under development.
Denel has a big presence and is exhibiting its RG31 mine resistant vehicle and its next generation RG41. In association with the International Golden Group (IGC), also on display will be theTCG30 remotely operated, fully stabilised turret armed with the GI-30 cam-operated cannon developed by Denel Land Systems (DLS).
Denel Vehicle Systems has a long-standing with the International Golden Group (IGG) to supply RG31 mine-resistant vehicles for the UAE armed forces. IGG’s Agrab is a Mobile Mortar System makes use of the RG31 as a vehicle platform which is highly-regarded for its 4×4 capabilities, mobility and the protection it offers against anti-tank mines and explosive devices.
Denel will also show its SDROW (self-defence remotely operated weapon) turret. It can be fitted with various machine guns, grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles. Additional firepower comes with the addition of the Denel PMP iNkunzi Strike weapon. Denel Dynamics’ Cheetah surface-to-air missile will be a star attraction at the Rheinmetall Air Defence stand.
South African companies at IDEX 2019 are:
Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR)
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
Redeployable Camp Systems
Rheinmetall Denel Munition
Rippel Effect Systems
SME Specialist Mechanical Engineers
SA Aerospace Maritime Defence Industries Export Council (AMD)
Twiga Services and Logistics