The South African Artillery is investing in its holding of FV2 Bateleur multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). It has awarded Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) a R2 453 601.60 contract for the procurement of Bateleur upper structure spares. It was an extension of a similar R1 523 684.90 contract awarded last September and takes the value of work on the system to R14 519 120.59.
The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in its annual 2010 Military Balance publication credits South Africa with 51 MLRS – 26 of the 24-tube first-generation FV1 Valkiri and 25 of the later Bateleur. The IISS lists the Valkiri as being in storage. Another source puts most of the Bateleur in storage as well.
Lt Col Clive Wilsworth in his “First in, Last Out” (30 Degrees South, Johannesburg, 2010), an account of South African artillery operations between 1975 and 1989, notes the MLRS programme, Project Furrow, started in 1974. He added it is a common misperception that the quest for rocket artillery only started after Operation Savannah, the South African intervention in Angola from November 1975, when the Army encountered the Soviet BM21 122mm MLRS. “The massive firepower of the [MLRS] was already appreciated before the first contact in Angola.”
Wilsworth adds the system was developed to deliver “artillery strikes on soft targets – ideal against logistic points or convoys, airfields, concentrations of troops in open trenches or even in the open.” Development started at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and production as well as systems integration was in the hands of Kentron, today’s Denel Dynamics and RDM Western Cape. He further recounts that 127mm (5-inch) was selected as the calibre for the system as it was the same as the Kentron V3 air-to-air missile “which, with relatively minor modifications, could be used successfully.”
The warhead contained 6400 steel balls cast in a resin sleeve to save weight and filled with a RDX/TNT explosive mix. Two fuses were available: direct action or proximity. “During operations the proximity fuse was the most effective, and very few DA fuses were ever used.” The system entered service in 1979 with the fiat instructors’ course held at Kentron South (later Denel Somchem and now part of RDM) in May 1979. The first use of the Valkiri in combat was in August 1981 during Operation Protea. Wilsworth regrettably does not discuss the development of the Bateleur, which has not yet made a combat debut. It does however use the same 127mm rocket but with a 40-tube launcher fitted to a mine-protected Kwêvoël 100 10-ton 6×6 truck.
The weapon can fire up to 40 127mm pre-fragmented high explosive warheads to ranges of 7.5km to 36km at sea level singly or using ripple fire, firing up to 1 rocket per second. Reload ca take less than 10 minutes and in/out-of-action time is one and two minutes respectively. The system is supported by a Kwêvoël 100 ammunition truck carrying 96 rockets and crew who help with the reloading.
The systems are currently allocated to the SA Army Artillery School, Artillery Mobilisation Regiment and 4 Artillery Regiment, all of Potchefstroom, as well as the Regiment Potchefstroomse Universiteit and the Transvaalse Staatsartillerie of Pretoria.
Procurement of 127 mm bateleur multiple rocket launcher upper structure spares -extension of EAES/2009/194
EAES/S2010/1125 18 Nov 2010 R2 453 601,60 Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (Pty) Ltd
Procurement of 127 mm bateleur multiple rocket launcher upper structure spares
EAES/2009/194 10 Sep 2009 R1 523 684,90 Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (Pty) Ltd
Maintenance and repair of 127 mm bateleur multiple rocket launcher upper structures
EAES/2009/153 3 Sep 2009 R6 326 622,95 Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (Pty) Ltd
Replenishment of bateleur demobilization containers
EAES/2008/200 4 Mar 2009 R1 726 683,00 Contracts Logistics Equipment (Pty) Ltd
Maintenance & repair of 127 mm Rocket Launcher – extension of EATL/2006/141
ATL/2008/0935 6 Nov 2008 R586 688,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a DLS: Western Cape
AES/S2007/0764 26 Jul 2007 R558 347,07 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a DLS: Western Cape
EAES/S2006/0703 24 Jan 2007 R115 425,07 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a DLS: Western Cape
Artillery system engineering support 127 mm bateleur
EAES/2007/633 12 Jun 2008 R1 052 630,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a DLS: Western Cape
Artillery systems engineering support for 127 mm Bateleur – extension of EATL/2005/158
AES/S2007/0740 7 Jun 2007 R175 438,00 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a DLS: Western Cape