Bullish Denel amongst South African exhibitors at World Defence Show

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State-owned Denel is one of half a dozen South African companies taking part in the second World Defence Show in Saudi Arabia this week.

The World Defence Show (WDS) 2024, held from 4 to 8 February, has attracted more than 770 exhibitors from 75 countries, up from roughly 600 companies from 42 countries during the first edition in March 2022, when more than 65 000 visitors attended.

This year Denel is showcasing its missiles (Umkhonto, Ingwe etc.), air defence systems, precision guided munitions, artillery systems (G6, T5-52), unmanned aerial vehicles (Seeker 400), and small arms (NTW-20 anti-material rifle and DM-82 mortar), amongst others.

“This is an opportunity for Denel to demonstrate that we still design, manufacture and deliver high-technology products that is comparable and better than what is produced in the rest of the world,” said Mike Kgobe, interim Denel Group CEO. “It is important for Denel to have a strong presence in the fast-growing markets in the Middle East.”

Denel’s participation follows on a successful technology demonstration held at the Alkantpan range in the Northern Cape in August last year, which was attended by decision-makers and analysts from ten countries.

Kgobe said a newly restructured Denel is seeking new markets for its tried and tested products and systems. “We want to build on our reputation for leading-edge products and systems and the World Defence Show is a unique opportunity to gain a foothold in new markets.”

Kgobe in September last year explained the nearly R1 billion received from the Denel Medical Benefit Trust (DMBT) in 2022 allowed Denel to pay its salary backlog and pay suppliers in order to resume production. He said Denel is by and large being stabilised through the DMBT funds, and that the additional recent R3.4 billion Treasury recapitalisation has also gone a long way towards stabilising the company (55% of the latter, or R1.8 billion has been received so far with the remainder to be released once certain conditions are met). These capital injections have enabled Denel to restructure, right-size and reposition towards its new business model that will, amongst others, take it from six divisions to four operating units (Guided Weapons, Land, Air, and Integrated Systems).

Denel requires R2.29 billion to complete its turnaround plan, and the cash required will come from the sale of non-core assets and the remainder of recapitalisation funds from National Treasury.

Another headline exhibitor at WDS 2024 is Milkor, which through its Saudi Arabian division is exhibiting its Milkor 380 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The aircraft is displayed in Saudi markings and with a varied weapons load, including an Al Tariq-X guided bomb and Desert Sting 25 glide weapons. Payload is up to 400 kg under the fuselage and 230 kg under each wing. Powered by a turbocharged piston engine, the aircraft has a maximum endurance of 35 hours and a range of more than 2 000 km.

On the landward site, OTT Technologies and ADG Mobility, part of the OTT Group, during WDS 2024 announced a partnership with Rakaa Security and Military Supplies of Saudi Arabia. The South African group envisages transfer of technology and growth of its Saudi partner through new ‘clean sheet’ projects. The partnership will also look at service life extension plans for legacy equipment as well as the supply, support, and local manufacture of existing vehicles.

The Reunert group is out in force at WDS 2024, with Dynateq International, Etion Create, Fuchs Electronics, Reutech Communications, and Reutech Radar Systems taking part in this year’s exhibition. A Saudi defence electronics company manufactures Etion Create’s CheetahNAV vehicle navigation system locally, with other products to be rolled out incrementally as part of Saudi Arabia’s localisation strategy.

DCD Protected Mobility is exhibiting together with its Saudi Arabian partner Qudra Industrial Co, which offers armoured vehicles, armoured guard rooms, security training, technical support, maintenance, spares etc. It is also the agent for DCD’s Husky route clearance vehicle.

Hensoldt South Africa, exhibiting under the Hensoldt group, emphasises it has been a key partner in contributing to the Middle East’s defence landscape for nearly two decades. Hensoldt has established Hensoldt Middle East in Saudi Arabia, alongside a regional sales and marketing office in the United Arab Emirates. Wholly owned by Hensoldt South Africa, “Hensoldt Middle East strategically addresses the local market, while contributing to knowledge transfer, technology development and skills enhancement in the region as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” the company said.

“Saudi Arabia, the fastest-growing economy in the world and largest country in the Middle East, presents a crucial market for Hensoldt. The need for advanced sensor technologies to ensure situational awareness, especially in the face of conflicts and terrorism, aligns with the company’s core strengths,” Hensoldt South Africa added.