Denel seeks Hoefyster production order

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Denel Land Systems (DLS) says it is ready to start producing key components for the SA Army’s flagship infantry combat vehicle (ICV) programme. Project Hoefyster.

Business Day newspaper says this could move the programme “at least a year ahead of schedule.”

DLS was awarded a R8.3 billion order for 264 “Badger” ICV in May 2007. A research and development contract worth R1 billion was signed afterwards.

Under this DLS and partners developed a new 30mm chain gun, a rear-loading 60mm mortar and other programme-unique components. Design house LMT also customised the Patria AMV for the SA Army requirement.

Last November DLS project manager Reenen Teubes told defenceWeb the Army had accepted the first two prototype vehicles. He added that in addition to the prototype hulls the first turrets had also been completed and the 30mm cannon and 60mm breech-loading mortar successfully fired.

Sources told defenceWeb in March the production contract for the remaining R7.3 billion would likely be signed in November. The sources this morning averred that this still appears to be the case.

However, it is not clear when delivery is scheduled to start. The industry source says the matter has become confused with too many people putting forth too many different dates. defenceWeb has previously been told deliveries would start in 2012.  

Teubes told Business Day the company is now ready to open “some production lines.” One industry source adds Teubes` comments to te paper may be to speed the signing along as DLS CE Stephan Burger inferred in the same report that the company`s future is to an extent dependent on the contract.

Business Day said Burger had told it DLS battled some years ago to get foreign business and that the South African Army had also not been buying. “The company was facing insolvency with the burden of a huge overdraft, and then the Army awarded it Project Hoefyster, which has become the backbone for its survival.

“Not only is it benefiting Denel Land Systems as the primary supplier of defence equipment to the SANDF, but a number of auxiliary companies in the defence industry will remain afloat,” he says.

Procurement manager Jabulile Tlhako separately told Business Day DLS has 23 companies subcontracted to the programme, of which six are foreign, 15 are local and two are other Denel divisions.

At least 12 of the local companies comply with black economic empowerment and six of them have a majority black ownership.

Tlhako added that the foreign companies had stringent conditions of skills transfer to locals “to help us repair and maintain the equipment in SA beyond their contracts”.

Burger noted DLS planned to use the Hoefyster project to build and grow the industry, and especially to enhance the skills and experience of black technicians and engineers.

“The industry is already suffering from a generation gap of aging white male talent versus the younger black graduates.”