Young Denel engineers produce breakthrough weapon


The challenge given to the three young engineers to redesign an infantry soldier’s most trusted ally, the machine gun, making it lighter and easier to handle without compromising its firepower and reliability, sounded deceptively easy.

Three young mechanical engineering graduates, Dakalo Nekhumbe, Phindile Mashaba and Marumo Talane, a trained electro-mechanical engineer, took to the challenge with enthusiastic “out-of-the-box thinking”.

The result was the development of a new generation light-weight machine gun, the DMG-5.

At the recent Africa, Aerospace and Defence trade and exhibition show at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, which is Africa’s largest event of this nature, the DMG-5 made its debut under the glare of the global defence media, industry and the general public.

It immediately attracted attention due to its innovative revolutionary features.

Nekhumbe, Mashaba and Talane work at Denel Land Systems (DLS) and are all products of the Denel Engineering Academy.

Denel Land Systems is Africa’s leading designer of weapons and vehicles systems used by infantry forces. The company manufactures the world-renowned R4 assault rifle, which is the primary weapon used by SANDF forces responsible for peace-keeping missions in Africa. The G6 long-range artillery and the new Badger infantry fighting vehicle are also products coming from the DLS stable.

Infantry forces always require a reliable machine gun to provide continuous fire support on the modern battlefield. The existing SS77 manufactured by Denel met most of the requirements regarding firepower, durability and reliability and has proven its capabilities in combat operations many times over.

However, both soldiers and weapon designers are always searching for an improved product – in this case, a machine gun that is lighter to carry and easier to handle – without cutting corners or compromising on the requirements of firepower and accuracy.

For Stephan Burger, CEO of Denel Land Systems, it was an easy decision to offer the challenge to the young designers at the Denel Engineering Academy. Mashaba, Nekhumbe and Talane were given a simple, yet challenging, brief: “Modernise the weapon, decrease its weight and retain its reputation as one of the most trusted elements in the infantry’s arsenal.”

Within these guidelines they were given the freedom and flexibility to come up with an innovative and effective final product.

“The challenges were set – and met – with great enthusiasm and professionalism,” says Burger. The three young engineers were committed to the company’s Infantry Weapons Department where they worked under the guidance of experienced engineers and veteran designers.

Soldiers on the move rely on the sustained firepower offered by a machine gun. However, such weapons can also be heavy to carry during long foot patrols, where each soldier also has to transport sufficient ammunition, water, food rations, equipment and sleeping gear. Every kilogram of weight you can reduce on the weight of the weapon enables the soldier to carry more rations or water.

The weapon that emerged from the engineering team represents a major leap forward in weapons design. A weight reduction of almost 20% has been achieved – the DMG-5 tips the scales at a mere 8.3kg compared to the 10.3kg of the standard SS77.

Burger says the new design is the result of creativity and innovation from a young team who tackled the challenge from fresh new angles. Among the major design changes introduced is a new barrel design, new cocking handles, new flash hiders, light-weight trigger housing and a co-ax handgrip.

With each change in design, precious grams were shaved off the weight of the weapon without compromising on stability and durability. The result is a well-balanced, light-weight weapon which is ideally suited for modern soldiers who need to operate in both rural and urban battle environments.

The young engineers stayed with the project from design, to modelling, to testing and the production processes and were also on hand when the new DMG-5 was first unveiled to the public at the AAD2016 in September.

“The success of the project confirms Denel’s commitment to guide and mentor young talent through the early stages of their careers,” says Burger. “We gave them the responsibility to work on a major project – but also the freedom to explore their own ideas and utilise the knowledge they have gained during their training and education.”

The DMG-5 is among the lightest machine guns in the world. It can fire 7.62mm or 5.56mm calibre ammunition and can be enhanced with optional tactical attachments such as optical sights, night vision equipment, torches or laser pointers. The grip can be adjusted to suit the personal requirements of the operator. The weapon is effective at a range of up to 1 500 metres and has a firing rate of up to 900 rounds per minute.

“The result represents a major breakthrough for Denel, which will definitely contribute to our reputation as one of the leading global innovators in design and advanced manufacturing and among the top 100 defence companies in the world,” says Burger.