Ammunition and electronic systems dominate SA’s 2022 defence exports

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Ammunition and electronic systems accounted for the majority of South African defence exports last year, according to the latest National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) annual report, with big items like armoured vehicles making up a relatively small percentage.

For the calendar year 2022, South Africa exported R4.679 billion worth of military hardware and munitions, up from R3.353 billion in 2021. At approximately R420 million, armoured vehicles made up only a small portion of South African arms exports, with armoured vehicles being sold to Congo (1), Ghana (6), Guinea (2), North Macedonia (2), Mali (2), Niger (8), Senegal (16), Togo (3), UAE (1), Unites States (4), and Zambia (2), according to the NCACC.

Similarly, modest amounts of “large calibre artillery” worth R113 million was sold to Djibouti (4), Egypt (3), France (10), Switzerland (4), Uganda (8) and the United States (4).

Ammunition accounted for the largest single component of South Africa’s 2022 arms exports, amounting to R1.628 billion. Some of the larger customers for “round/shell” items included Australia (R382 million for 8 203 items); Germany (R119 million for 9 816 items); India (R315 million for 316 135 items); Qatar (R181 million for 49 201 items); and the UAE (R420 million for 42 800 items). Other ammunition customers included Bangladesh, the Philippines, Rwanda, Spain, and Turkey.

Similarly, bombs and rockets made up R946 million worth of arms exports in 2022, with Germany, for example, acquiring 18 420 bombs (most likely mortar bombs) worth R575 million, and the Philippines acquiring 189 921 bombs for R204 million. Qatar bought over 2 000 rockets for R1.7 million and the UAE bought 399 907 bombs for R126 million. Other customers included Saudi Arabia and Zambia, buying 8 961 and 380 bombs respectively.

After bombs, rockets and artillery rounds, electronic equipment accounted for the second largest portion of defence exports, amounting to R1.3 billion in 2022. Some of the larger exports included communications equipment to India (R55 million) and Mali (R39 million); measuring equipment to the United Kingdom (R32 million); countermeasures equipment to Germany (R79 million); and observation equipment to Turkey (76 items for R1.047 billion) and the UAE (32 million).

R15 million worth of ‘alerting and warning systems’ were sold to China, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, and Sweden. Total communication, measuring, and electronic warfare exports amounted to R147 million last year, while imaging, observation and countermeasures equipment came to R1.191 billion. Sales of software and technology, including electronic warfare and countermeasures equipment, came to R8 million in 2022.

Other notable sales in 2022 included R210 million worth of light weapons. Bangladesh was the biggest recipient of light weapons, receiving 1 000 worth R79 million. Other customers included Brazil, Denmark, France, Malaysia, Korea, Peru, Singapore, the UAE and United States, but these were for between 1 and 72 items.

The only aircraft being listed as exported last year was a single helicopter worth R12 million to Ghana, while Malaysia received 66 missiles (possible Ingwes for its armoured vehicle turrets supplied by Denel) worth R79 million.

The NCACC report also lists R599 million worth of dual use exports in 2022. However, when all dual use exports are tallied up, they only come to R386 million, not R599 million as stated in the report.

Dal use exports for 2022 included R70 million worth of armour (17 000 units) sold to Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, France, Portugal, Romania, Singapore and the UAE. Communications equipment worth R136 million was sold to over a dozen countries. Information security technology worth R56 million was exported to eight nations.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) worth R299 million were sold ten nations, including 36 to Benin (for R29 million); nine to Brazil (R11 million); seven to the DRC (R3.4 million); ten to Cote d’Ivoire (R8 million); five to Mali (R5.6 million); nine to Mozambique (R2.8 million); 82 to Nigeria (R70 million); nine to Saudi Arabia (R5 million); two to the United States (R162 million); and ten to Zambia (R1.8 million).

With regard to imports, in 2022 South Africa imported 40 ‘large calibre artillery’ weapons from France (R25 million); two from Switzerland (R5.4 million), and 80 artillery weapons from the United Arab Emirates (R113 million). Seventy-eight light weapons were imported from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Turkey, the UAE and United States. Over a million rounds of ammunition were received from China, Norway and the UAE. Small amounts of countermeasures equipment, imaging equipment, warning and communication equipment were received from the UK, Australia, Belgium, and Sweden. Imports, according to the NCACC, amounted to R301 million in 2022.

Click here to view the NCACC 2022 annual report.