Sudan’s SAFAT Aviation Group pushes exports


Sudan’s state owned SAFAT Aviation Group, SAG, is making a push for export sales of its domestically developed light aircraft and smart bomb.

The group largely acts as a maintenance, repair, and overhaul contractor for the Sudanese Air Force and regional clients, but in recent years has begun to manufacture light aircraft and helicopters, as well as develop and produce rocket launchers and a precision guided bomb.

In a sign of its new interest in exports, the group took a large stand for the first time at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2016 show at Air Force Base Waterkloof in September. The group also put on display at Waterkloof the SAFAT 02 light helicopter manufactured in a joint venture with its Ukrainian designers Aerokopter. Also on display at Waterkloof was its domestically designed and built two seater, the SAFAT 03, which is primarily used for pilot training.

The Burkan Smart Bomb and the SAFAT 03 (based on the UTVA 75), as well as its maintenance activities show the growing sophistication and capabilities of the state owned Military Industrial Corporation (MIC) of which SAG is a part. Sudan’s defence industry has become a symbol of the country’s defiance in the face of international sanctions.

The UN Security Council maintains an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. Sudan’s defence industry has been assisted by its Chinese, Russian, and Iranian suppliers, who are not restricted by arms embargoes in selling to Khartoum, if they ensure the weapons do not end up in Darfur.

The US has maintained sanctions and an arms embargo against Sudan since 1997 after it accused the country of supporting terrorism and violating human rights. The EU has an arms embargo and maintains a range of economic and travel restrictions on the country. Sudan’s President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

Speaking at the launch of the SAFAT-01 aircraft in 2009 al Bashir spoke of national pride in the achievements of SAG. “What we are doing will enrage our enemies,” he said, according to Reuters. “Sanctions cannot stop development,” he added.

The Military Industry Corporation was established in 1993 as the country was facing western isolation, and produces a wide range of products including small arms ammunition, rifles, tanks, mortars, rocket launchers, armoured vehicles, and artillery. Last year the MIC Khalifa-1 122mm self-propelled howitzer made its international debut at IDEX 2015 in Abu Dhabi, which was attended by President al-Bashir.

The SAFAT designed and built 250 kg Burkan guided bomb, which was on display on the company’s AAD stand, is a guided air to surface bomb. The device comes with an ordinary fin tail or a parachute, and its possible uses include the destruction of such targets as airports, radars, bridges, and oil refineries. A SAFAT brochure says the Burkan has a range of effective destruction within a diameter of 150 metres. The bomb has wings that unfold after launch to give it a maximum range of 80 km when dropped at an altitude of 10 km, which allows the aircraft to be out of enemy range, according to SAFAT. Its guidance mechanism can be integrated into various navigation systems and GPS.
A Burkan guided bomb.

SAFAT’s Chief Test Pilot, Major General Salah Abd Alkhalig Saeed Asad, said the Burkan had been dropped by the Sudanese Air Force contingent he commanded in support of Saudi Arabia in striking at Houthi rebels in Yemen.

SAFAT has also produces rocket launchers for aircraft, including the Karib ASML07, which takes seven rockets of 765mm in length, which can reach a maximum range of 8.5km.

SAFAT’s Fighter Centre specialise in the maintenance and overhaul of Russian and Chinese fighters flown by the country’s air force and by those of a number of countries in the region. Among the Chinese fighter types it overhauls are the K-8, A-5, F-6, and PT-6. It also does maintenance and overhaul work on the Su-25, Su-24, MiG-29, MiG-23, and the Mi-24. Its capability on the K-8 extends to complete overhaul of the airframe and 95 percent of components, according to a company brochure. SAFAT Aircraft Maintenance Centre has approvals to maintain and upgrade a range of Antonov aircraft. SAG also provides upgrades to the avionics and others systems on the Russian made Mi-24 helicopters.

It also runs the High Level Aviation Academy, which provides pilot training and aircraft engineering, management, and manufacturing courses.