UK says it is looking for SA defence partnerships


The UK says it is making a renewed effort to build defence partnerships with South Africa. This comes after a lull in defence cooperation between the two countries in the wake of the delivery of equipment in the early 2000s, when BAE Systems supplied the Hawk and, together with SAAB, Gripen fighters under the 1998 arms deal.

Since the deal, BAE Systems has sold off South African investments and the political climate turned against the UK.

Now UK officials say that UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s discussions with President Cyril Ramaphosa in Cape Town earlier this month have given fresh impetus to a renewed attempt to improve defence ties.

At the African, Aerospace, and Defence (AAD) show at Waterkloof this week a UK Department of Trade and Industry senior spokesman, Adam Thomas, was giving the message that British defence firms are actively searching for business and possible partners in SA and the region. Part of the message was also that the UK is open to South African defence suppliers, who can register their details and expertise on the UK Department of Defence’s contractors’ web site (

Among the UK companies at the show seeking business in the region are:

Pearson Enginnering, the manufacturer of attachments used for combat engineering tasks, including route clearing. In the past the company has worked with DCD, manufacturer of the Husky mine detection vehicle, and Denel. Pearson-made attachments are on the General Dynamics Stryker vehicle. The company also builds the Boxer armoured vehicle.

Chemring, a group of 14 companies with facilities in the US, UK, Norway, and Australia is at the show to interest regional forces in its air and naval countermeasures. The company produces a range of chaff, infrared and electronic countermeasures. It also manufactures smoke flares, CS gas, high explosives, and shaped charges. Its electronic warfare system, “Resolve”, was in use with 16 special forces during the Afghan conflict. The system features a man-portable passive listening capability over a 50 square km area. The firm is talking to Botswana about its possible use in anti-poaching operations.

Fujitsu UK, the IT company is a leading cyber security contractor to the UK Department of Defence. With the SA National Defence Force building up its cyber security capability, Fujitsu is attempting to raise local awareness of its services. Its expertise lies in building highly secure private cloud servers and networks. The company is in 36 countries, doing cyber, command and control , and other IT security work.

Qinetiq, is keen to interest regional forces in its advisory services to manage complex procurement. The company’s “Optasense” technology that uses fiberoptic cables over long distances to detect border incursions might be adopted the Defence Force. In partnership with Armscor, it is currently looking into possible Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment candidate firms that could become suppliers to a possible border security project.

Photograph: This overhead view of AFB Waterkloof, home of AAD, was taken from a height of 500km by an Airbus satellite earlier this week.