Gerotek to be home to South Africa’s automotive Skunk Works?


Gerotek, the Armscor owned and operated facility specialising in various aspects of vehicle mobility, performance and endurance is on the cusp of major expansion, including the establishment of a South Africa “Skunk Works” for the automotive industry.

Shamir Schloss, senior manager of the Pretoria West facility, is enthusiastic about the expansion of commercial opportunities in line with the Armscor turnaround strategy.
“We have incredible, world-class facilities at Gerotek and some models could be employed to expand our client base across all our services,” he said.

As far as expanding operations is concerned he sees opportunities to create facilities like a military training academy, entering into leases with advanced driving academies as well as office space and vehicle parking.

Gerotek is housed on 550 hectares between Pretoria and Hartbeespoort Dam in North West. It straddles a valley and its most visible features are a high speed test track, a concrete obstacle track and other facilities associated with vehicle testing such as a skid pan and a number of off-road tracks.
“We have vast tracts of land than can profitably be utilised for ventures not traditionally undertaken by Armscor. It’s a whole new world and Gerotek is up to the challenge,” Schloss said.

The new world for Gerotek will see a “massive construction project” start up. Armscor General Manager: Marketing And Business Development, Lulu Mzili, said that “discussions are currently underway between Armscor and the Department of Defence (DoD). More details will be made available as soon as firm agreements are in place”.

She also indicated “an automotive company has shown interest in setting up a ‘Skunk Works’ at Gerotek. The project will undertake rapid testing and evaluation of different demonstrators and variants for an automotive fleet”.

At present the South Africa automotive equivalent of Lockheed Martin’s advanced development programme is only in the discussion phase.
“No commitments have yet been made by either party,” she said, repeating the qualifier for the Armscor/DoD development that details would be made available once commitments have been firmed up.

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has been responsible for, among others the Lockheed SR-71, Blackbird, the U-2, the F-117 Nighthawk, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning.

The name Skunk Works was taken from the moonshine factor in the Li’L Abner comic strip and is widely used in the business, engineering and technical fields to describe a group inside a business or organisation with a high level of autonomy working on classified projects.