Uncertain future for Armscor


State armaments corporation Armscor may cease to exist if a proposal in Roelf Meyer’s draft Defence Review goes ahead, while the head of Armscor has said the organisation is a mere shadow of its former self, prompting a controversial re-examining of the organisation.

In its last annual report Armscor indicates it has not had a smooth passage in recent times. Board chairman Lieutenant General (ret) Maomela Moreti Motau notes in the report that, “The once glorious Armscor, that driver of technological advancement in the South African economy, that bastion of innovation, that flagship of strategic capabilities of the SA National Defence Force, is a mere shadow of its former self”.

He added that Armscor had become “a mere spectator” in the decision-making process on arms acquisition.

Looking at the way forward Motau said the new board embarked on an introspection exercise to determine whether it would preside over the continuing decline of the corporation, or take it to a higher plane to reclaim its legislated position (in terms of the Armaments Corporation of South Africa Limited Act, Act 53 of 2003).

This led to Armscor defining a new strategy for itself, parts of which it has been made available to defenceWeb.
“The strategic re-positioning of Armscor is not a deviation from the Act or a new creation. It is a reaffirmation of that for which the Act makes provision. All elements contained in the repositioning strategy and the direction the Board is taking is not in any way a contravention of the Act.
“The strategy focuses on strengthening Armscor, to ensure it is able to meet and support the client’s (SANDF) current and future requirements and provide the same services to other organs of state and other governments.
“In terms of the Act, Armscor is bound to maintain strategic and essential capabilities, resources and technologies. This is to ensure research and development is strengthened in the country and beyond. The maintenance and development of strategic capabilities will not be realised without a vibrant and sustainable private and public sector.
“The strategy seeks to strengthen the defence industry both in the public and private sector as the defence industry is an enabler for Armscor to execute its mandate. Another area the strategy seeks to achieve is sustainability of the capability in Armscor and in the defence industry. To this end, just like the rest of the world, the defence industry diversifies military technology and products for commercial use.
“The strategy thus seeks to encourage and support commercialisation of military technology to ensure sustainability of the required capabilities in the defence industry and Armscor,” read the Armscor statement, released exclusively to defenceWeb.
defenceWeb has also had sight of a document entitled “Repositioning Armscor: Strategy through the 21st Century”. No authorship is attributed to the document, approved in July 2011, which carries the official Armscor logo.

Chapters cover the establishment of different defence and industrial manufacturing sectors and list possible partner countries for missiles and targeting systems; sensors and imaging systems; aerospace systems and land systems as well as strategic projects including trucks, utility helicopters, shipbuilding, and missile and tractor systems.

Some of these would seem to indicate Armscor plans to return to the manufacturing arena with products destined for the commercial market as well as for use by the SANDF.

It has been speculated that the Repositioning Armscor document has caused some controversy in the defence sector, with Armscor senior management dismissing it as “a document that shows an abysmal lack of understanding of the business in general and the technicalities in particular”.

The strategy is at odds with the proposal to establish a Defence Material Organization in the Defence Review and do away with Armscor. The 21st century strategy is also apparently not supported by the defence department and may have been one of the reasons why former defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu attempted to dismiss Motau in June last year.

The draft Defence Review will be tabled in Parliament before the financial year end. Both Armscor and AMD (the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association) indicated there would be no public discussion around the 500 plus page document before its approval by Cabinet and subsequent release for public comment.