Pretoria Metal Pressings (PMP) is preparing to locally manufacture cannon ammunition for the South African Air Force’s Gripen fighter jets and is also diversifying into other types of ammunition production including Russian calibres.
Phaladi Petje, CEO of Denel Group company PMP, told defenceWeb his company will be doing its own design and development on Gripen ammunition production and at the moment is finalising the process with Armscor and the South African Air Force (SAAF). He said the idea is to work closely with Saab and gun manufacturer Mauser (now part of Rheinmetall).
Petje said that although PMP is under pressure to be able to produce the 27 mm ammunition locally as quickly as possible, the whole process may take four to five years. At the moment the ammunition is only made in Germany by Rheinmetall.
Brazil has ordered 36 Gripen NG fighters, which will most likely be armed with the A-Darter fifth generation air-to-air missile being jointly developed by Brazil and South Africa. Petje was hopeful that Brazil might also take the locally manufactured ammunition for its Gripens.
The single seat Gripen is armed with a single 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon with 120 rounds of ammunition. The single-barrel, gas-operated revolver type weapon fires electrically primed 27 x 145 mm ammunition at 1 700 rounds per minute. The cannon weighs approximately 100 kg including barrel. Types of ammunition available include high explosive, armour piercing, armour piercing high explosive, semi armour piercing high explosive, and target practice.
PMP is also diversifying into the production of Russian calibre ammunition – the ubiquitous 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition for the AK-47 series of assault rifles is ready for manufacture while PMP will in the future be producing 23 x 152 mm ammunition for the for ZSU gun series. PMP is just awaiting orders for 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition before bullets start rolling off the production line.
PMP has started delivering the new 30 x 173 mm cannon rounds for the South African Army’s Badger infantry fighting vehicle, which mounts the 30 mm CamGun on the Section and Fire Support variants. 15 000 APCI-T and 88 000 PRAC-T rounds have been delivered to the South African National Defence Force. Petje told defenceWeb that PMP had by the end of last year delivered R110 million worth of ammunition.
The ammunition is interchangeable with the Mk 44 Bushmaster II and linked ammunition made by PMP has already been fired successfully from this weapon. Denel said that good progress was made with the development of a hardened 30 x 173 mm cartridge case for use in the Bushmaster. As a result, PMP is looking at 30 x 173 mm ammunition beyond the CamGun, with “huge potential” that can be tapped into. PMP is also looking at collaborating with Nammo to develop an armour piercing round in this calibre.
An exciting prospect on the horizon is the manufacture and distribution of ammunition developed by US company PolyCase, which uses polymer cartridge cases for reduced cost and significantly lighter weight. PMP is currently testing some of their products and is awaiting delivery of others.
Approximately a third of PMP’s business comes from commercial work, including hunting ammunition. Although PMP does not manufacture .22 Long ammunition, Petje noted it is popular and “very good business at the moment.” Since it would be difficult to get funding to establish a new production line, at least not within the next five years, PMP is considering importing this calibre.
In addition to manufacturing ammunition, PMP also disposes of old stock up to 12.7 mm in calibre. Petje said he saw opportunities to grow this side of the business.