Armscor making little headway on Hoefyster and A-Darter projects

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There has been little forward movement on the Badger and A-Darter projects for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), which is still in the dark as to when it will receive its new infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and air-to-air missiles from Denel.

Armscor, in a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on 15 February, gave an update on Project Hoefyster. The state defence materiel agency told committee members that a Project Control Board (PCB) meeting was scheduled for 25 November 2022 to decide on the way forward with the project, but could not continue because the meeting did not quorate and so it was converted to an Information Brief to the Army Council.

Armscor has requested a new date for a PCB while the SA Army has asked for a briefing on the “non-compliance to specification” of the Badger project. Armscor is awaiting confirmation of these dates.

At the request of the SA Army, Armscor arranged for four different variants of the Badger vehicles to participate in the Armed Forces Day parade in Richards Bay on 21 February as well as to participate in live firing demonstrations during Armed Forces Day events. A total of seven Badgers took part in Armed Forces Day events.

“A further mobility and firepower demonstration of the vehicles is being arranged to take place at Potchefstroom or Alkantpan subsequent to the Armed Forces Day celebrations,” Armscor noted. The Badger was also displayed at Exercise Vuk’uhlome in November last year at the SA Army’s Combat Training Centre.

Project Hoefyster phase one – for the design and development of five main variants – came into effect in June 2007 with a contract value of just over a billion Rand (at 2006 Rand value) with delivery expected in May 2012. This was to be followed by phase two – industrialisation and production of 238 Badgers – with a completion date of November 2023. That not much of this happened is common knowledge, with blame variously laid at the doors of mismanagement at Denel, the State-owned defence and technology conglomerate awarded the contract by Armscor, and state capture.

As for the A-Darter missile, Armscor reminded the committee that due to funding and skills constraints at Denel Dynamics it has developed a viable alternative model for further development and production of the A-Darter for the SA Air Force (SAAF). The viability of the proposed model has been tested against affordability, availability of resources and status of development, Armscor stated, and has found to be “completely viable”.

Armscor’s plan is to have other local defence companies work with Denel Dynamics to industrialise and manufacture the missile. “The principle of workshare with identified entities in industry to assist with the completion of the industrialisation and production of the missile, has already been agreed with Denel. Denel has already performed an assessment of areas where insufficient expertise or capacity exists within Denel.

“Armscor has already engaged with potential role players in industry who could participate in a workshare arrangement with the industrialisation and production of identified sections of the missile where Denel doesn’t have the requisite expertise or capacity. Armscor is awaiting a PCB to be convened to obtain the authority to execute the proposed model to meet the requirement of the SA Air Force for the A-Darter missile. A number of PCBs have been scheduled to date, but all were cancelled prior to the meetings taking place,” Armscor stated.

The SAAF has only received eight inert practice A-Darter missiles from Denel Dynamics, and manufacture of the full complement of trainer and operational missiles is still outstanding.

Denel was in March 2015 contracted to industrialise and manufacture the A-Darter fifth-generation air-to-air missile for the SAAF. All missiles were supposed to be delivered by October 2017, but development and qualification was only completed by November 2019. Primarily due to reasons of liquidity and subsequent resignation of key personnel at Denel Dynamics, execution of the programme has been completely halted over the last three years.

The A-Darter was developed jointly with Brazil under Project Assegai, with Denel Dynamics to deliver eight practice missiles, 21 trainer missiles, and 41 operational missiles to the SAAF. Continued delays mean the A-Darter, which should have been completed in 2015, is already seeing some obsolescence in certain areas. Limited re-engineering will be required before production can commence.

In the meantime, the South African Air Force continues to use the interim IRIS-T missile, which was acquired from Germany in 2009.