Defence minister’s visit strengthens SA-Brazil defence ties


The visit to South Africa last week by Brazilian defence minister Celso Amorim has resulted in defence ties between the two countries being strengthened, with cooperation in the fields of training and technology, particularly regarding air-to-air missiles.

During his four-day visit to Africa between March 19 and 22, Amorim visited Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. Whilst in South Africa he stopped by Denel Dynamics’ facilities in Centurion, where the company is developing the fifth generation A-Darter short-range air-to-air missile (AAM) in conjunction with Brazil.

In Brazil, A-Darter development is managed by the Brazilian Air Force’s Combat Aircraft Programme Coordinating Committee (Copac). Currently, Brazil has nine personnel at the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Pretoria, which have the task of monitoring the project, the Brazilian defence ministry said.

The A-Darter is in its final stage of development, a stage that includes the preparation of manufacturing equipment. Components for the 12 km range missile are manufactured in South Africa and Brazil, with extensive technology transfer and integration between the industries of the two countries.

Brazilian participation in the project involves Avibras, Mectron and Opto Eletronica. Mectron makes all Brazil’s missiles (MAA-1/B Piranha air-to-air missile, MAR-1 anti-radar missile and MSS-1.2 anti-armour missile). Avibras is assisting with development of the A-Darter’s rocket motor and Opto Eletronica is participating in the development of the A-Darter’s seeker head. On the South African side, responsibility lies with state-owned company Denel, through its subsidiary Denel Dynamics.

According to Brazilian and South African engineers working on the project, the missile’s development will be completed in the second half of 2015, the Brazilian defence ministry said. Testing has already been done on SAAF Gripen C/Ds, which should accelerate the integration of the weapon onto Brazilian Gripen NGs when these are delivered from 2018.

Since 2006, when the contract for the missile’s development was signed, Brazil has sent 64 military and civilian professionals to South Africa, mostly engineers, to participate directly in the project. “This is the kind of South-South cooperation that we seek”, said Amorim during his visit to Denel, where he saw the prototype of the A-Darter.

The A-Darter missile was specifically mentioned during a bilateral meeting held between Amorim and South African defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on March 20 in Pretoria, where it was hailed as an example of successful partnership. “The South-South cooperation is a priority in our foreign policy,” said Mapisa-Nqakula, who also stressed the importance of sharing information and conducting joint military exercises.

In a statement to the press, the ministers mentioned the willingness of Brazil and South Africa to strengthen the relationship between the defence industries of both countries. One possibility in this field is the joint development of a new air-to-air missile with a range of up to 100 km.

The Brazilian defence ministry said that South Africa and Brazil maintain strong defence ties, including officer training and joint military exercises. Amorim said that Brazil and South Africa are “ideal partners in defence,” as they have similar geopolitical visions, an independent political stance in the world, are at similar stages of development, and also have common challenges and needs in the technological field.

The bilateral defence relationship between Brazil and South Africa was formalised in 2003 with the signing of the Agreement on Cooperation in Defence Related Matters by former ministers of defence from both countries.

Further evidence of defence cooperation will be when the Brazilian and Indian navies steam into Simon’s Town in October for the trilateral maritime exercise Ibsamar. South Africa will also participate in exercise Atlasur with the Argentinean, Uruguayan and Brazilian navies.