IBSA defence tour ‘history in the making’


The IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) Defence Joint Working Group delegation visit to South Africa last week is expected to lead to tangible results in the near future, with the group keen to establish a joint defence project.

Antonie Visser, Chief Defence Matériel Division at the Department of Defence, who served as the head of the Mission as well as the head of the South African delegation, told defenceWeb that “we are creating history,” with real results becoming visible around five years from now.

Visser said that the IBSA group would like to start a personnel exchange programme. “We also realised we’d like to get a project we could work together on,” he added. South Africa and Brazil are already collaborating on the A-Darter air-to-air missile but Visser said a trilateral project would be optimal.

The purpose of the combined visit, which took place between November 12 and 16, was to explore and identify specific potential areas of cooperation in the fields of military science, technology and in the defence industries among the IBSA countries for the medium and longer term. The study tour allowed the three countries to see what capacity existed in each and also what type of capabilities the countries need or would like to see.

The South African mission comprised of members from the Department of Defence, Simphiwe Hamilton, Executive Director of the South African Aerospace Maritime & Defence Industries Association (AMD), and several people from local industry. India was represented by PK Mishra, Joint Secretary, Department of Defence Production at the Indian Ministry of Defence, while Lieutenant General Aderico Visconte Pardi Mattioli, Director of the Department of Defence Products (DEPROD) at the Brazilian Ministry of Defence, represented Brazil.
“In our visit we really tried to give them some flavour of our defence industry and understanding of how we are structured, our legislation etc.,” Visser said. The five-day long South African tour began with a visit to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), followed by a briefing covering the South African defence industry. The second day of the tour saw the delegates visit the CSIR, have a look at some of the Armscor institutions (such as Hazmat Protective Systems and Protechnik Laboratories) and the various Denel entities.

On Wednesday last week the delegation visited Aerosud and GEW Technologies. They also had the opportunity to drive several vehicles at the Gerotek test track outside Pretoria. On Thursday they flew to Cape Town where they saw what Reutech, Tellumat and the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) had to offer. On Friday a wrapup session was held and some of the delegates visited the Overberg Test Range at Air Force Base Overberg while others engaged with Reutech.
“During the visit there were many South African capabilities that were highly respected,” Visser said. “It was very positive. I only picked up a positive approach.” He said that it was important for the three countries not to become competitive but to “see how we can work together.”

Visser noted that “short term bilateral spinoffs” had resulted from the visit, meaning it was likely that a number of contracts would emerge and there may be bilateral cooperation between various companies.

The South African study tour was preceded by visits to India and Brazil earlier this year.

The Joint Defence Group is a result of an IBSA Memorandum of Understanding on Trilateral Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation entered into in 2010. The IBSA Dialogue Forum provides South Africa, India and Brazil with a platform to engage in discussions for cooperation in the field of agriculture, trade, culture, and defence, among others.

The South African defence industry employs more than 15 000 people and contributes more than R12 billion in turnover per year to the economy.