Arms Trade Treaty report sheds more light on SA defence trade


South Africa has submitted its 2016 calendar year Arms Trade Treaty report, which shows that it exported 142 armoured vehicles in 2016, and imported 50 FN-6 surface-to-air missiles from China, amongst others.

The report, submitted on 29 April, shows that South Africa’s biggest exports were armoured vehicles. In total, 24 Casspirs were exported to Angola, nine LMT LM13s were exported to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior, 16 OTT Pumas were exported to the Senegalese military and 24 Denel Vehicle Systems RG31s were sold to the UAE armed forces.

Paramount exported ten Mbombes to Jordan, 54 Marauders to Singapore’s Ministry of Defence and five Marauders to Roke Manor Research Limited in the United Kingdom. A subsidiary of the Chemring Group, Roke Manor Research is a contract research and development business for communications, networks, and electronic sensors. Amongst others, they have done research into electronic warfare, gun and mortar locators and landmine clearance.

The Arms Trade Treaty report also lists South Africa as exporting ten ‘surface target’ missile to Algeria – most likely Denel Dynamics Mokopas for use on the Navy’s Super Lynx helicopters. The report also lists five ‘small arms’ and 1 490 ‘light weapons’ being exported in 2016 but makes no other details available.

On the import side, seven Patria vehicles were imported from Finland as part of the South African Army’s Hoefyster programme and 50 FN-6 surface-to-air missiles were imported from the People’s Republic of China for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

It is not clear what the FN-6s were imported for – the SANDF’s Ground Based Air Defence System (GBADS) uses the Starstreak missile. It has been speculated that they may have been acquired for electronic countermeasures (ECM) development for the South African Air Force (SAAF).

However, in response to a defenceWeb enquiry about the missiles, the SANDF stated that, “the SANDF can confirm that there is no missiles imported from China in its possession.”

The FN-6 is a third generation infrared-guided man-portable air defence system in service with the People’s Liberation Army and exported to around a dozen countries. The FN-6 has been used as the basis for several other Chinese surface-to-air missiles, such as the HN and FY series. The weapon has a range of 6 km and altitude of just under 4 km.

The National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) is supposed to release annual reports on South African arms imports and exports but to date has only released statistics for the third quarter of 2016. These show that the South African defence industry exported R468 million worth of defence equipment to 66 countries between 1 July and 30 September 2016.

Amongst the items it listed exported were five armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and five APC hulls to Singapore worth R19 million (most likely Paramount Marauders), 13 missile launchers to China worth R1.2 million, one missile launcher to the United States worth R674 960, 12 84 mm weapons to China worth R4.8 million, 1 000 rounds of 30 mm ammunition to Norway worth R4.1 million (most likely PMP’s 30×173 mm rounds for Nammo), and 7.62 mm ammunition to Sweden worth R3 785. Tanzania bought 30 40 mm weapons worth R2.1 million along with 3 960 rounds of ammunition worth R1.044 million.

The United Arab Emirates bought a substantial amount of military equipment in the third quarter of 2016, including nine APCs worth R88.040 million, 1 770 aircraft bombs worth R59.7 million, 24 360 120 mm mortars worth R266.6 million, and eight defensive aid suites worth R446 000.

While South Africa has traditionally exported large quantities of armoured vehicles, it sold a fair amount of electronic equipment in the third quarter of 2016. This included a transponder to France worth R638 000, 41 integrated defensive aid suites to Italy worth R6.3 million, two jammers to Kenya for R3 million, 20 observation systems to Egypt worth R3.5 million, a ruggedized computer to Malaysia for R8.2 million and software to India for R1.2 million. A total of 27 rangefinders were sold to France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UK and Spain for R3.5 million and communications equipment worth R4.8 million was sold to India and China.

According to figures from the NCACC, South Africa’s arms exports (export permits) were worth R2.7 billion in 2015, compared to R2.98 billion in 2014, R3.2 billion the year before and R10.6 billion in 2012.