SA Defence Industry holds massive shoot-off


Thirteen South African and German companies this week showed off their capabilities at the Armscor test range at Alkantpan in a remote stretch of the Northern Cape. Some 220 guests from 36 countries attended what was likely the largest live-firing demonstration in South Africa in a decade.

Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) CE Norbert Schulze said the two day event would show-case his company’s abilities in the munitions environment as well as that of Rheinmetall Waffe Munition (RWM) of Germany, using a range of South African-made firing platforms, including the Denel Land Systems (DLS) G6-52 self-propelled 155mm gun-howitzer, the Stryker mounted DLS 105mm “light experimental ordnance (LEO)” gun howitzer, a range of mortars and 40mm grenade launchers.

Pic: The G6-52 in action
“… in the defence industry, seeing is believing, and there is no better sales exercise than to let our quality product talk for themselves on the testing ranges, Schulze said in his welcoming address on Tuesday morning. “Take home the message of RDM that we at the southern tip of Africa are developing, manufacturing and supplying worldclass ammunition that proudly carries the famous Rheinmetall brand name.”
Denel Group CE Talib Sadik added the Rheinmetall-Denel joint venture (JV), established in September 2008, has been an “exceptionally successful relationship, not only for Denel but for South Africa as well.” RDM is held 49% by Denel and 51% by RWM.

Department of Defence (DoD) chief of acquisition Antonie Visser agreed the JV was a “win-win” for South Africa. Looking at the crowd, he said he was “proud to see [continued] foreign interest” in South African equipment, which he said was a “sure sign we are still doing things right”.

RDM and RWM were supported by the South African DoD, SA National Defence Force and Armscor as well as Carl Zeiss Optronics, Denel Dynamics, DLS, Denel PMP, Milkor, Reutech Fuchs Electronics and Rippel Effect.

Pic: The Stryker 105mm SP fires. 

Other RWM subsidiaries in attendance included Rheinmetall Soldier Electronics, Rheinmetall Vinghog and Rheinmetall Chempro.

Among the African countries attending were Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique and the Republic of Congo. Also present were representatives – government, military and industry – from the United States, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
The demonstration started with a comparison of the fragmentation effect of a standard 155mm projectile, versus the RDM pre-formed fragment (PFF) variant. The witness plates at 30,40 and 50 metres from the detonation point, some 2000m from the firing point where the grandstand was located, told a story that needed no verbal elaboration. Also demonstrated was RDM’s range of velocity-enhanced long-range artillery projectiles, a move that required some witnesses to take a 63km bus ride to the impact point. The audience further witnessed the ballistically-matched Assegai -family at a range of 41km.

Also fired for the edification of the spectators was RDM’s new range of 105mm ammunition developed for the LEO.

Pic: Witness plates. These were placed at 20m from the detonation point. Red paint marks the PFF and white fragmnts from the conventional shell.   

RDM business development executive Gyff Fitchatt noted the HE PFF shell, which LEO fires to over 30km, was 1.6 times more lethal than a standard 155mm round. He called the family “extremely accurate” and said the effects could not be replicated with 155mm systems. At Tuesday’s demonstration, the 105mm achieved verified ranges of 33 133m and 33 111m. Fitchatt also noted that the pyrotechnic shells in the family were ballistically matched to the HE shells and had the same range performance. He added it made little sense to do otherwise. Even so, illumination and smoke shells with a range in excess of 30 000m was “quite an achievement” he said.
Also demonstrated was the Denel Neopup 20mm Personal Assault Weapon, a “hand cannon” with a fearsome punch, the Denel NTW-20 anti-materiel rifle and a range of RDM pyrotechnics, including riot control agents, coloured smoke grenades, 300m/1000ft signal rockets and a new 39-rocket RWM flare dispenser. RDM further displayed a new series of 60mm “patrol mortar” bombs as well as a full family of ballistically matched 60mm and 81mm long-range bombs in addition to 120mm munitions. These were demonstrated in day and night firings.

The highlights Wednesday included the firing of RDM’s new “Plofadder 160AT” system that can clears antitank mines to a depth of 300mm along a stretch of earth 8m wide for up to 160m, using some 500kg of explosives. A smaller, manpack, version was fired as an appetiser.

Pic: RWM flares at night.

Last, but not least was the firing of an Ingwe precision guided missile. This engaged – and destroyed – a tank target at 3000m. Although a Denel Dynamics product, RDM manufactures the warhead, rocket motor and launch tube of the missile.

Sadik called the event “inaugural”, and Schulze, speaking at an after-event dinner Wednesday night, said there would be more, but likely in two or three year’s time, which is understandable considering the expense.