SA plays a low key at DSEi

“Proudly South African” branding at this year’s Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition (DSEi) London meant somewhat low key exhibits by twenty SA companies. 
There was none of the big “gee wow” type of items – combat vehicles, artillery of unmanned aerial vehicles that tend to make a pavilion a centre of attraction.
The four day show, one of the largest of its type, ends today amid a security operation, which has progressively tightened over the years.
Organisers are worried about the prospect of demonstrators opposed to the arms trade storming the railway station at London`s Excel centre, where the show is held.
They expected the exhibition to attract 26 000 visitors from across the world, many of them in military uniforms.
If there was a star of the show from SA, it was the new RG35, the mine protected multi-purpose fighting vehicle with its SA-made turret, unveiled earlier this week by Benoni based BAE Systems Land Systems OMC.
The prototype RG-35 which was shipped over to the UK for the show and displayed on the BAE Systems stand was in a favoured position to be viewed by the many of the visiting delegations.
Visits for international buyers are arranged and tightly managed by the UK Department of Trade and Industry.
The RG-35 fills out BAE System`s offering in mine protected and combat vehicles, but as a cross between a fighting vehicle and an armoured personnel carrier. BAE Systems has not built this for any defined requirement.
However, it expects this poor man`s combat vehicle to find a market in developing countries that cannot afford fully equipped infantry fighting vehicles. The market for the vehicle is more likely to be in South America and Asia than in Africa.
Another SA product from BAE Systems local subsidiary on display was the M-First, the mobile interactive shooting training system. This SA developed shooting simulator helps armed forces save on ammunition during training.
If anything the South African stand with 21 of the country`s defence contractors said “let`s have a presence”.
It certainly did not scream a unified marketing approach with a big and highly ambitious attitude.
While reasonably large in scale, the pavillion certainly did not compare in scale or design with those of the US, Germany, France, or Italy. 
Other countries with stands included Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Israel, Finland, and Turkey. Two of the world`s largest arms exporters China and Russia did not have stands at the show.
At the SA pavilion Denel was essentially saying “we are still big and keen”, but did not appear to have any new technologies on show.
Greeting audience was a mortar from the company`s product range and a SS77 machine gun, the weapon it hopes will win the favour of the French.
Midrand-based manufacturer Truvelo was pushing its two new recently released comparatively light countermeasure sniper rifles. And Pretoria`s Milkor was keen to push its 40mm Under Barrel Grenade Launcher and Stopper convertible.
Megaray, the Johannesburg company which designs and markets a ultrahigh intensity searchlight had a stand at he show and is keen to build on its success in selling to Russia and a Middle Eastern country.
Pic: SA`s face to the world at the Defence Systems Equipment International Exhibition in London.