The South African Army will soon start receiving its new Badger infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) but it is also seeking to replace its trucks and armoured vehicles while modernising some of its equipment, such as assault rifles.
“We have made efforts to acquire new equipment form our defence industries and revamp old ones in order to keep our force fit for purpose. The badger Infantry Fighting Vehicle will add new life to our infantry, with manufacturing starting in the 2015/16 financial year,” South African Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo told journalists at the annual Army breakfast on Thursday.
“The SA Army has streamlined projects aimed at addressing the issue of ageing hardware. The SA Army Air Defence Artillery’s very short-range air defence (VSHORAD) Starstreak missile is one of the many pieces of equipment that our projects are yielding and is currently being used by the ADA [Air Defence Artillery] corps as we speak.”
Masondo said that work is underway on R4 upgrades for the Army as part of the African Warrior programme, but other equipment has also been upgraded including the Rooikat armoured vehicle, Olifant main battle tank and SS-77 7.62 mm machinegun.
“The SA Artillery Corps is also doing work on its G6 gun. With all these projects aimed at the renewal of our force, we are also trying to expand our footproint in terms of operations that we get involved in domestically and on the African continent in pursuance of continental and regional security.”
Masondo said ageing equipment was a challenge. “It is true that our Samil vehicles have aged a lot. They are costly to run.” Project Vistula aims to replace the Samil truck fleet and Project Sapula aims to replace the Casspir and Mamba armoured vehicle fleets. Masondo said he hoped to see these projects arrive “sooner rather than later.”
“South Africa’s landward force is facing the challenge of ageing equipment. The SA Army is dealing with it and our people can rest assured that we are more than ever capable to defend their interests,” Masondo said.
In light of the impressive performance of the Denel Aviation Rooivalk combat helicopter with the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against rebel groups, Masondo said he would like to see this aircraft back in production.
“Our involvement with the FIB and the deployment of the Rooivalk has proved to be a force multiplier and game changer. There has been a lot of interest and enquiries.” Masondo said that export contracts would minimise the costs of the aircraft for the SANDF due to economies of scale.
Minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in March this year also praised the Rooivalk’s performance in the DRC and called for production to resume, saying there was a lot of interest in the helicopter from foreign countries. However, Denel Aviation estimates that 75-100 aircraft would need to be ordered to make restarting production feasible.