Progress, but no delivery date for Badger yet

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The 2012 delivery date originally set down for the SA Army to receive its new infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), christened the Badger and given the Armscor project name Hoefyster, has long gone and there is still no clear date for the landward force to start retiring its Ratels ahead of Badger induction.

What is known, thanks to a Parliamentary question asked by Democratic Alliance shadow public enterprises minister Mimmy Gondwe, is six steps are in place “demonstrating a concerted effort to navigate past challenges and ensure the project’s successful continuation and completion”.

Gondwe asked the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) what steps Denel is or has taken to restart Project Hoefyster.

The response, signed off by outgoing Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Jacky Molisane, DPE Acting Director General, states there has been “significant progress”. This includes a project control board (PCB) which 12 months ago deemed the bulk of technical compliance issues could be waived, or were non-contractual, and allowed the development phase (Phase One) of the project to continue.

However, fifteen non-compliance issues were referred back to Denel for resolution. It was agreed that the production phase (Phase Two) of the first new IFV battalion could be initiated with appropriate Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) approvals and contractual changes.

Since last April’s PCB, Denel Landward cleared remaining non-compliances against the lead Badger variant and submitted two contract variation orders (CVOs) to Armscor. (Denel Landward is a consolidation of the former Denel Land Systems [DLS], Denel PMP [Pretoria Metal Pressings], Denel Vehicle Systems [DVS] OMC and Mechatronic business units executed as part of Denel’s restructuring post State Capture.)

The phase one CVO re-aligns the remainder of the Hoefyster project taking into account its order, schedule and what is termed “commercial realities that have impacted the programme”.

The phase two CVO focuses on industrialisation and production adjustments in line with the PCB recommendations.

Further progress is noted in the response via integrated monthly programme meetings and creating a programme management steering committee. Armscor, Denel and the SA Army Directorate Acquisition (DAA) serve on the committee, which meets quarterly and met for the first time on 4 March with a further review meeting planned for later in April.

Nine of the 15 non-compliance issues referred to Denel are resolved and await formal reviews, Gondwe was informed in a reply dated 24 April, with the five still outstanding due to be cleared “shortly”.

“These steps, as supported by DAA and Armscor, underscore Denel Landward’s commitment to advancing Project Hoefyster, demonstrating a concerted effort to navigate past challenges and ensure the project’s successful continuation and completion,” the DPE reply concluded.

Denel is busy concluding development of the Badger, while revised production costs will see fewer vehicles manufactured for the SA Army.

Armscor earlier this year told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) the project had stalled since 2019, mainly due to deviations from contracted specifications and financial constraints within Denel.

Production quantities are now for sufficient for a single battalion (88 vehicles) and not the three originally planned.

Phase Two, for industrialisation and production, requires a “complete re-costing” due to the long delays experienced by the project. The outcome of this will then be submitted to the Army.

Last year, Armscor said Denel expected to establish a product baseline for the five main Badger variants by the end of 2025. Under the revised Phase One schedule, product baseline for the Section variant is expected in April 2024; the Fire Support variant in July 2024; the Command variant in December 2024; the Missile variant in March 2025; and the Mortar variant in December 2025.

Project Hoefyster phase one – for the design and development of five main variants – came into effect in June 2007 with delivery expected in May 2012. This was to be followed by phase two – industrialisation and production of 238 Badgers – with a completion date of November 2023.

As a possible alternative to the capability that is to be provided by Project Hoefyster, Armscor is in parallel executing a study into the possibility of performing a life extension of the Ratel infantry fighting vehicle.