Armscor is looking to acquire inflatable body armour for the South African Navy, and on 1 June issued a tender for approximately 100 buoyant armour jackets.
Tender ELWS/2017/20 has a closing date of 22 June and calls for the supply of 25 medium, 25 large, 25 extra large and 25 extra extra large units of inflatable body armour, although there is also mention of an unspecified number of small jackets in the tender document. All armour is to have Level III ballistic protection.
The tender document states that the inflatable body armour is to be manufactured in South Africa but the raw materials (the outer cover material for the jacket, threat etc.) can be imported. Suppliers must obtain a letter from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for imported material even if it is obtained from a local supplier.
The armour will comprise a combined life preserver vest and bullet resistant jacket. It will be inflatable with a CO2 gas cylinder with manual top-up through a mouthpiece. Accessories are to include a water activated emergency light and whistle.
Ballistic protection is to comprise ballistic panels giving Level III protection, and up armour ceramic plates 25 x 35 cm and of the Supalite type weighing around 2 kilogrammes. “Used in conjunction with the jacket, the system needs to provide protection against the following threats: 7.62×51 ball at 862 m/s; 7.62×39 ball (MS core) at 710 m/s and 5.56×45 ball (Type M193) at 955 m/s,” the tender document says.
The jackets are to weigh 4.2 kg with Level II protection and 8.4 kg with ceramic plates.
The ballistic jackets are most likely intended for the SA Navy’s Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS), which was established in September 2006 and commissioned in December 2008. It is tasked with a wide variety of tasks, including amphibious operations, peacekeeping, boarding operations at sea, humanitarian operations and disaster relief. Other tasks include establishing a Forward Deployable Base (FDB), from which operations may be conducted. Although not originally envisioned to be part of its duties, the MRS currently conducts anti-piracy operations and is deployed aboard vessels on patrols in the Mozambique Channel.
The MRS has four interconnected components: the Operational Boat Division, Operational Diving Division, Reaction Force Division and Maintenance Division.
The Operational Boat Division was commissioned to provide boat crews and protection contingents to the Great Lakes and other areas in pursuit of South Africa’s interests, and operates harbour patrol boats, Lima landing craft and riverine patrol boats.
The Operational Diving Division’s main tasks are mine identification, mine avoidance, mine clearance, beachhead clearance, and explosive ordnance disposal. The Division also carries out domestic diving, search and rescue, deep diving, mine hunting and mine clearance, underwater device disposal, underwater salvaging, underwater drilling and welding, as well as other tasks. Its equipment includes a compression chamber, four and six-metre boats and diving equipment. Operational deployments have included humanitarian relief in Mozambique, aircraft salvage off South Africa and recovering bodies from the capsized ferry Spice Islander off Zanzibar in 2011.
The Reaction Force Division is an important component of the MRS and projecting South Africa’s foreign policy objectives across Africa. Members of the Reaction Force Division are able to serve in both infantry and amphibious roles, and carry out anti-piracy operations, anti-poaching operations, and peacekeeping deployments. In 2009, as part of Project Xena, the MRS was equipped with a deployable base and support equipment for operational deployments in Africa.