A representative from German-based corporation Rheinmetall has suggested that an upgrade of the South African Army Air Defence Artillery Formation’s 35 mm Oerlikon GDF Mark V twin-barrelled anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) to Mk VII configuration could form the basis of a regional SADC air defence system.
Fabian Ochsner, Vice President of Marketing at Rheinmetall Air Defence, suggested that the upgrade and overhaul of the 35 mm gun would create the possibility of building a modern air defence system in South Africa capable of dealing with both conventional and asymmetric threats.
The upgrade would include use of both Swiss and South African technology in line with the government’s Direct Industrial Partnership (DIP) guidelines. Local input could be provided by, among others, Intertechnic Contracting.
Ochsner was speaking at the South African Joint Air Defence Symposium (SAJADS) in Pretoria this week. He explained that the proposed new AHEAD round, which, when it explodes, turns into a cloud of 152 tungsten projectiles, can act effectively as a very close-range ground-based air defence system.
He said the upgrade would be similar to the upgrade of the SA Army’s 48 Mk V cannons. Kits were sent to South Africa and the guns were upgraded through local company Intertechnic.
Ochsner added that Rheinmetall would continue to partner with local companies. “These companies have been looking after the 35 millimetre system here in South Africa and they still do and will do in the future.”
He said Rheinmetall had presented the latest Skyshield fire control system at the Denel Test Range at Alkantpan.
“This gave us the chance to present this system to a number of South African VIPs and dignitaries who had been able to see the system is really working; it is truly Military Off-The-Shelf (MOTS). You can take it out of the production line and put it into service.”
South Africa first obtained the Oerlikon automatic cannon in 1963. Two of the twin 35 mm guns were linked to a Super Fledermaus fire control system in the GDF Mk I version, but this was discontinued in 1989, when an African Defence Systems Data Transmission Interface was used to link the cannons to the LPD20 radar.
This left the guns without a dedicated fire control system and made them “autonomous” with the operator using the sights and gun computer only, according to Ochsner. In the 1990s, 48 guns were upgraded to Oerlikon Mk V standard. It was one of these auto cannons that malfunctioned at Lohatla killing nine Air Defence Artillery members in 2007.