The South African Army’s Air Defence Artillery has placed an order for R692 026.64 with Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd of Glenstantia for the procurement of spares and accessories for its 48 Oerlikon GDF Mk 5 towed anti-aircraft guns.
The contract follows orders in September and February for support services for the 35mm system as well as for the 23mm ZU23-2 gun. The business has so far amounted to work worth R59 067 009.83 for Intertechnic since December 2007.
The GDF had unwelcome publicity in October 2007 when one system malfunctioned during a gunnery exercise and killed nine soldiers. Fourteen more were seriously injured. The Star newspaper reported in March 2008 that a Board of Inquiry into the incident found that a design flaw, and not human error, was to blame for the tragedy. Major-General Johan Jooste (Retired), who led the inquiry, that month presented a summary of his findings to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence. He told MPs a “critical mechanical failure” of a matchstick-sized metal pin caused the accident.
Jooste explained that the pin caused the gearbox of the rotating (upper) section of the gun not to engage properly, leaving the 4-ton upper section swinging uncontrollably under its own weight. The problem was further aggravated by a stoppage – a physical ammunition jam – in one of the barrels which caused the force of the other barrel’s “rather long burst” to rotate the gun violently to the left. The gun then fired at the crews of seven other systems nearby, the paper said.
An inspection carried out after the incident found that 10 of the Army’s 48 GDF systems had broken spring pins, “accidents apparently waiting to happen”. The pins were sent to two separate groups of engineers for metallurgic testing but no metal fatigue or other structural problems were found, leading the inquiry to conclude that a design flaw was to blame.
The inquiry confirmed an earlier accusation by then-Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota – that the original equipment manufacturer did not notify client countries, including SA, of a previous, identical mechanical failure in another country. The manufacturer “had also not communicated any corrective maintenance tasks to prevent the pin failure from occurring or to correct the failure once it has occurred”.
Jooste said there was some dispute between the SANDF and the manufacturer about whether the shearing of the pins constituted a “critical equipment failure”. The manufacturer argued that the operator of the gun should be able to notice such a failure before it posed a threat, Jooste explained.
Procurement of 35 mm mark 5 gun weapon spares and accessories for the Air Defence Artillery product systems for the SA Army
EBEB/2010/239 4 Nov 2010 R692 026,64 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
EBEB/2010/157 22 Sep 2010 R3 074 959,31 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
EBEB/2009/24 18 Oct 2009 R5 488 326,27 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
EBEB/2008/392 10 Dec 2008 R1 460 125,12 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
Support services for the 35 mm Mk5 and 23 mm gun system for the Air Defence Artillery of the SA Army – extension of EBEB/2008/501
BEB/S2009/2329 11 Feb 2010 R457 639,00 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
Support services for the 35 mm Mk 5 and 23 mm gun system equipment for the Air Defence Artillery of the SA Army
EBEB/2008/501 21 May 2009 R33 711 555,00 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
Support services of the 35 mm and 23 mm artillery equipment for the SA Army – extension of ELGS/2004/528
LGS/S2008/2259 4 Mar 2009 R2 624 094,50 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
LGS/S2008/2236 19 Dec 2008 R1 754 385,00 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
LGS/S2008/2222 3 Oct 2008 R3 691 554,99 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
BEB/S2008/2193 29 May 2008 R2 637 057,50 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
BEB/S2007/2167 28 Feb 2008 R1 816 286,50 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd
LGS/S2007/2161 20 Dec 2007 R1 659 000,00 Intertechnic Contracting (Pty) Ltd