New border patrol APCs to be ordered in April

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After some delay, Armscor will next month place an order for new armoured personnel carriers (APCs) for the South African Army for use in border safeguarding operations.

In a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on 20 March, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) gave an update on the ring-fenced funding allocated by National Treasury for border safeguarding equipment.

The R500 million earmarked for the procurement of APCs to replace the ‘mobility packages’ or ‘troop packs’ is set to take place in 2024/25 financial year. “Armscor has finalised the contracting process and will place the procurement contract with effect from 1 April 2024. Progress report will be provided starting from the first quarter of the FY2024/25,” the presentation stated.

On 12 January 2023, Armscor issued a Request for Information (SA Army/R/403/6) for a 2+8 seat APC capable of counterinsurgency operations with variable ballistic and mine protection able to defeat an 8 kg mine. The vehicles would replace or supplement the current Mamba and Casspir, which are in need of replacement.

Sixteen local defence companies were invited to respond, with eight doing so. The intention was to evaluate the different vehicles along the South African borderline in operational conditions in October/November and afterwards demonstrate the vehicles during the SA Army’s Exercise Vuk’uhlome in November.

However, a 16 October letter addressed to Army command by Major General JPM Kobbie, Acting Chief Director Army Force Structure and seen by defenceWeb, explained the postponement of the evaluation and demonstration originally scheduled to take place from 16 October to 14 November.

The letter stated that Armscor failed to issue the request for bids (RFB). Joint Operations requested to support the borderline evaluation around the Ndumo area, but “it came to light from Joint Tactical KZN that they are not ready to feed and accommodate the drivers including the support staff to execute the functionality evaluation over the period as indicated.”

Armscor amended its procurement plan to allow “proper procurement processes to be followed,” the SA Army letter read.

“Armscor didn’t adhere to the target dates as per their original plan that they will issue the RFB by the 7 September 2023 including the specifications and even after thorough and extensive communication with them to come on board as they are delaying the process.”

As a result, the SA Army explained, companies were reluctant to release their prototypes before the RFB and specifications are issued.

With regard to the way forward, “Defence Materiel Division (DMD) had a meeting with Armscor on the 12 October and have agreed to compile a revised procurement plan with new target dates. The functionality evaluation plan will be aligned based on the issuance of the RFB and the tender closure date, then the evaluation of prototypes will commence.”

Armscor subsequently revised specifications for the troop pack replacement to move the acquisition forward. Based on the original requirements received, the combat weight was not to exceed 20 tons, but this was amended to 6.5 tons. The original user requirement specification was mostly taken from that of the Badger infantry fighting vehicle for the SA Army, and this was not practical for the vehicles required for border patrol.

In its new timeline, Armscor had 1 March listed as the approved request for offer being issued to industry; 4 April the cutoff for receipt of offers from industry; 12 April being the date for offers to be evaluated by; and 30 April being when the order is placed.

The companies that originally responded to the original Armscor specifications included DCD Protected Mobility with its Springbuck series; Denel with its RG21, RG31 and RG32M; OTT Solutions with its Puma M36 Mk 6 4×4; Milkor with its 4×4 APC; Automotive Investment Holdings (AIH) and Integrated Convoy Protection (ICP) with their Reva V; SVI with its Max 3; and Paramount with its new Maatla lightweight 4×4 APC.

National Treasury has allocated nearly R1 billion to improve SANDF border security capabilities over the next three years. In the medium term, troop pack vehicles (over 400 were originally acquired) will be replaced with off-the-shelf vehicles and R500 million will be spent in 2024/25 for this.

In addition to new vehicles, R200 million worth of sensor technology will be acquired for Operation Corona in 2025/6 including a geographic information system (GIS) capability (R22.5 million); intelligence collection and processing capabilities (R47 million under Project Baobab); upgraded Chaka command and control system (R7.2 million); Reutech RSR 903 radars (R57 million); 60 observation posts (R16 million under Project Dominate); 16 quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (R16 million) and two long range UAVs (R24 million).

The PCDMV on Thursday heard that progress on the R200 million sensor technology spend can only be provided during the first quarter of 2025/26.