Armscor is currently evaluating responses to a request for information for a replacement of the South African Army’s SAMIL logistics vehicles.
In December 2018 Armscor issued a request for information (RFI) for the vehicle replacement under Project Palama, which appears to have replaced Project Vistula, which called for the replacement of SAMIL 50/100 4×4/6×6 trucks. (Project Sepula, for the replacement of the Casspir and Mamba armoured personnel carrier fleets, also seems to have fallen by the wayside.)
The purpose of the RFI last year was to provide Armscor with a range of vehicle replacement options, with the RFI being very broad: options could include new vehicles or upgrades. A bidders’ conference was held towards the end of January this year, which attracted a number of companies including Rheinmetall, Tatra and Tata Defence amongst others.
Armscor is now compiling a report based on the bidders’ conference that will inform the way forward. It is not clear if new vehicles will be ordered or where funds might come from. A request for quotation (RFQ) might follow the RFI but it is not yet clear at this stage.
A SAMIL replacement has been on the cards for many years and in May 2018, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said “in my 2017 Budget Speech, I informed members that we had initiated the development of a multi-purpose logistic support vehicle called Truck Africa [sic] under Project Palama. This project has since commenced under the accelerated acquisition programme, making use of indigenous local knowledge and expertise. It will be commissioned in phases by 2019 at the latest. This project will be supportive of IPAP [Industrial Policy Action Plan] 2018.”
Denel Vehicle Systems (DVS) is one of the companies that responded to Armscor’s RFI. Abri du Plessis, Programmes and Engineering Executive at DVS, told defenceWeb that the company is offering a variety of solutions, including developing a new vehicle, producing something along the lines of its Africa Truck, upgrading existing SAMILs or locally manufacturing a military off-the-shelf (MOTS) vehicle.
In 2016 Denel Vehicle Systems unveiled its Africa Truck capability demonstrator, which was put together in the space of several months to show what the local industry could do. Based on the RG31, the 6×6 Africa Truck was developed in partnership with Armscor and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It was intended to be a simple and reliable vehicle ideal for African conditions and available for co-development with or export to other African countries (in both civil and military guises).
After its launch at the September 2016 edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, the Africa Truck was tested extensively and the vehicle subsequently bought by Armscor. The project is now lying dormant – it was only intended as a capability demonstrator and not as a prototype or pre-production vehicle especially as it was adapted from an armoured personnel carrier.
Du Plessis said he believed the best option to meet the requirements of Project Palama would be to give the SAMILs a service life extension as this would be the cheapest option – the vehicles still have decades of life in them. This would most likely involve new engines and automatic transmissions. It would also be the quickest solution, whereas developing a brand new vehicle would be costly and time-consuming. Another option is for local companies to partner with suppliers on local production of an existing truck – it is understood that local content is a key requirement of the RFI.
The SA Army currently relies heavily on ageing SAMIL trucks for logistics. These are being maintained by Cuban technicians and mechanics in terms of Project Thusano. Since the 2015 commencement of Project Thusano, in collaboration with the Cuban armed forces, around 6 000 vehicles have been repaired and refurbished.