The consultative draft of the 2012 Defence Review states government will support “niche capability areas in which the South African defence and security industry has a demonstrable edge or potential to gain such edge.” Among these are precision guided weapons, fire direction systems and unmanned systems, the document says.
It adds the focus of national support will be on exclusive local sourcing, insofar as practicable, based on military priorities. This includes: support of equipment, systems and weapons and the related training systems and facilities; manufacture of critical munitions; manufacture of critical, specialised batteries and other energy sources; manufacture of critical and high-rate-of-use spares and other stores; and, system integration, to allow optimisation of equipment and systems for specific Defence Force requirements; and to minimise political/strategic risk. In addition, the focus will include modernisation and upgrading of equipment and systems to extend service lives; development of specific critical equipment and systems; development of specific optimised equipment and systems; and sustained manufacture of equipment required in large numbers or amounts.
“This will be accompanied by a focus on ensuring the commercial viability of South African defence products, particularly with an eye to their acquisition by other regional and continental armed forces, and cross-pollination of civilian and military capabilities,” the review further adds.
Furthermore, the focus of that support will be on secure communications; information technology, including data-fusion technology; intelligence gathering, analysis and evaluation technology; electronic warfare technology; rugged tactical vehicles optimised for operations in the African theatre; mine and IED detection and protection technology; long-range artillery systems; chemical, biological and radiological defence; battlefield medical care optimised for the African theatre of operations; and modelling and simulation. It adds the “aerospace sector will be considered for inclusion in this group of key sectors, if it is believed that there is real potential to develop a viable product or viable capabilities in particular niche areas.”
It may, for instance, be possible to expand South Africa’s capabilities in the field of unmanned aerial systems on the basis of existing capabilities in that field and in related fields, and on the basis of the airframe development capability resulting from UAV projects and the recently unveiled [Paramount Group/Aerosud] AHRLAC concept aircraft; develop the AHRLAC … into a viable operational system with real export potential; or to build on the Air Force’s medium to long-term requirements for combat support and medium transport helicopters to develop a local manufacturing capability and linked maintenance, repair and overhaul capability to support other helicopters in the wider region, the review reads.