The United States officially opened its pavilion in Hangar 3 at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition on Wednesday with both the South African and the US national anthems.
Chargé d’Affaires, Jessye Lapenn, stressed the need for partnerships with US firms and the South African defence industry.
Lapenn said the aerospace sector especially relied on partnerships. Referring to US aerospace, she emphasised the achievements of the Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong and today’s multifaceted industry. She said the Wright brothers likely could not have imagined the kind of advances reached by the US aerospace industry.
She expressed that AAD provided an opportunity to: “Exchange ideas, to create connections and to build partnerships in global, regional and international categories. These partnerships enhance business”, she said, “but they also advance technology, innovation, knowledge and they also provide a platform for our most pressing multinational challenges, whether it’s illicit fishing; maritime solutions, reducing wildlife poaching through border surveillance, or better logistical operations to support peacekeeping operations.”
Along with big corporations like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, 14 companies from the US are new to AAD. The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), is present for the first time at AAD.
Media and VIPs were invited for a walkabout by Ms Lapenn. Seeker Aircraft Inc., showcased a light aircraft which is specialised for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and is designed for rough regions of the world. The piston-engine aircraft features low operating costs and simplicity. A spokesman said it took six hours to disassemble, but they are working on speeding this up. There is an example at AAD.
The (US) State of Maryland has its own pavilion. With its capital at Annapolis, which houses the US Naval College, one of five US institutes of higher learning. Situated next to the US capital, Washington (D.C.) Maryland has numerous defence industries and is also the home of Air Force One, the US presidential aircraft.
Other US companies at AAD included Standard Aero, FLIR with its famous infrared night vision technology, and Harris, which showcased its radios, which are used by US Africom and other support teams throughout Africa.
Incidentally, US military personnel were present in abundance, many of whom sported the US Army Special Forces shoulder flash. The aviation engine manufacturer, Pratt and Whitney, showcased a working jet engine model, while the Woolpert firm’s spokesman described the use of light detection and ranging (LIDAR) equipment, which can “see into” the ground, for agricultural planning purposes, as well as a range of aerial mapping, disaster relief and other assistance. Viking, a Canadian-based aircraft manufacturer, introduced its famous Twin Otter aircraft to Southern Africa. The company hopes to bring an aircraft over in 2019.
This aircraft has been widely used throughout North America for maritime patrol, maritime ISR missions, firefighting, rescue and other missions requiring a tough, reliable and versatile aircraft. The Viking Twin Otter has been fitted with skis for ice-based missions, as a floatplane, as well as a standard tricycle undercarriage configuration.
The US Pavilion can be seen as a gateway to the vast North American aviation market, while also offering high quality products and partnerships to potential African partners and buyers.