Addressing the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) this week, Armscor’s chief executive pointed out the agency’s core function was to acquire defence equipment and materiel for the national defence force.
Going into some detail of what his presentation termed the “operational review”, Advocate Solomzi Mbada reported on selected acquisitions. These included hydrographic and multi-mission patrol capabilities for maritime systems; a new generation short range air-to-air missile (airborne systems) and for landward systems – a new generation infantry combat vehicle (Project Hoefyster).
He informed one of Parliament’s two defence oversight committees the “(Hoefyster) programme has not shown any significant progress over the past year and the development initially contracted for completion in 2012 has not been completed”.
Delays, according to the man who replaced Kevin Wakeford as chief executive of government’s defence and security acquisition agency, are “attributed to both technical and financial challenges in Denel, as well as suppliers not supplying sub-systems due to non-payment by Denel”.
Whether the SA Army will ever receive the new generation Badger vehicles to replace its ageing Ratels is apparently not yet finalised with Mbada saying Denel “formally notified” Armscor and the Department of Defence (DoD) in December 2018 it is unable to deliver “against the current contract baseline in terms of technical specifications, delivery schedule and price, as contracted (sic).”
“The way forward with the programme has been addressed in Armscor and the DoD at various management levels and recommendations have been formulated for consideration by the appropriate DoD forums,” Armscor’s most senior employee informed the committee.
While not quite on the same level, there are problems with A-Darter, the new generation short range air-to-air missile.
Here Mbada reported development, qualification and certification by both the Brazilian and South African air forces was successful, but progress on the production contract by Denel is behind schedule. This was laid at the door of Denel’s liquidity challenges and non-delivery of sub-systems by sub-contractors “due to non-payment by Denel”.
The maritime acquisition projects, by contrast, are in as better place with Project Hotel steaming on. In addition to work progressing on time with the build of a new hydrographic vessel for the SA Navy, ancillary components of the acquisition are also well in hand. This includes upgrading shore-based hydrographic infrastructure and survey motor boats.
Project Biro, for three inshore multi-mission patrol vessels (MMIPVs) of an original six hulls with the other three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) on hold, is also on track according to Mbada.
“Manufacturing of the first sections of the first vessel is nearing completion and assembly is 50% complete. Manufacturing of the second vessel has commenced and is on track,” he said.