Rheinmetall is looking to establish a Development Centre in South Africa to develop munitions for various international clients and is currently in talks with a potential launch customer.
The purpose of the Rheinmetall Development Centre is to develop munitions ranging from grenades, mortars and artillery shells to rockets and other munitions. “We have requirements to develop ammunition from various users,” Rheinmetall Denel CEO Norbert Schulze said in explaining the idea behind the centre.
Schulze said it was somewhat difficult at present to get export licenses out of Germany and much more supportive for defence businesses through South Africa’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), making South Africa a better choice for such a facility.
He added that there were many benefits to having the facility in South Africa, such as the development of new technology, the ability to use ranges like Alkantpan and the Overberg Test Range and the development of skills. The Centre would benefit both Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) and other Rheinmetall companies as well as local universities.
The Rheinmetall Development Centre will recruit staff from South Africa and will use RDM for prototype construction. Around 100 jobs would be created at the Centre, which will have its head office at RDM’s Somerset West facility. Funding would come from customer orders.
Schulze said that Rheinmetall is in discussions with a launch customer for the Centre but would proceed regardless, but on a smaller scale, if a launch customer is not found soon.
The new initiative forms part of RDM’s investment in research and development. The company has invested R298 million in product development over the last five years. 41% of this material effort goes into mortars, 29% on artillery, 5% on 40 mm grenades and 7% on missiles while 3% goes towards energetics and 1% to ballistic protection. RDM has spent 210 000 man hours on research and development and 52% of this is own funded while the rest is client funded.
In addition to development investment, between 2009 and 2014 RDM has invested R484 million in capital and R229 million in maintenance.
One of RDM’s supporters is the Defence Research Development Board (DRDB), which provides funding basic research and development for things like warheads, motors etc. Schulze said the DRDB helps the company grow its technology.