Major delays in delivery of the SA Army’s new infantry combat vehicle are affecting overall modernisation of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and specifically the Infantry Formation’s prime mission equipment.
This was how Secretary for Defence Sam Gulube, in part, responded to questions during a recent Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) meeting.
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais has long maintained the national defence force is vulnerable in the areas of prime mission equipment and other capabilities it should have. He posed a series of questions to the Department of Defence and Military Veterans’ accounting officer in an effort to obtain clarity. This, he said, was because the department’s annual report did not supply sufficient information for informed judgements to be made.
According to Marais there will be a further two year delay in supplying the landward force with the first replacement vehicles for the ageing Ratel combat vehicle system. He wanted Gulube to inform the committee how this would impact on military operations.
The Secretary for Defence’s response was that the Department of Defence (DoD), through Armscor, will have to renegotiate the contract variation order with Denel Land Systems (DLS) to obtain agreement on new available funding and a proposed scheduled for the project to equip the infantry with new Badger vehicles.
“This will be the route to take for as long as budget cuts persist,” Gulube is reported as telling the committee.
“The major implication deriving from the delay in delivery is modernisation of capabilities vested in the infantry component. Modernisation of SANDF prime mission equipment will not take place at the pace and quantity the SANDF has planned.
“In essence this means the SANDF will still have to make use of systems that are ageing and maintained at higher cost.
“Continuous re-planning and reprioritisation will be done in an attempt to alleviate the challenge Project Hoefyster is experiencing. With the continuous rate of exchange and escalation on the extended time scale Project Hoefyster will be severely affected over the medium to long term.”
The replacement for the SA Army’s Ratel infantry combat vehicle – the Badger – “has already been delayed by at least 32 months” according to the latest Armscor annual report.
The SA Army is due to receive its first of 244 vehicles in 2022, not early 2019 as expected. The Hoefyster programme has been delayed a number of times.
Badger delays have been caused by development issues with software, delays in manufacture of the fire support, missile and mortar variant engineering development models, technical challenges, and the dire financial situation of Denel.
In August, SA National Defence Force Chief, General Solly Shoke told defenceWeb he was “deeply concerned” about the financial situation at Denel as this impacted negatively on delivery of equipment needed by the South African military, including the Badger infantry combat vehicle.