A new dawn for defence industrial collaboration between South Africa and South America


South America is a fast growing market for the world’s defence and security industries with Brazil at its fore. A vast and geographically diverse country, Brazil has large reserves of natural resources and substantial oil reserves. The country’s defence procurements are largely focused on the protection of these resources, including the fragile Amazon system, from illegal mining, deforestation and drug trafficking.

In addition, Brazil has a high incidence of urban crime that its security and emergency response agencies have to be adequately equipped to deal with while facing the future challenges of policing headline international events such as the 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. National security is a high priority for Brazil’s new president.

Now adapting to its role as a major emerging world power, Brazil has launched a multi-billion dollar programme to modernise its armed forces with procurement spending alone forecast to climb 70 per cent over the five years to 2015. While it has entered agreements with several countries for the purchase of new military equipment, Brazil’s defense ministry is focused on providing its domestic industry with technology procured from foreign OEMs. It is seeking new defence industry technologies and materials, and its offset regime puts very high value on indigenous production and technology transfer. These can take the form of joint-ventures or the prospect of final assembly of military vehicles in-country.

Brazil is now recognised as one of the four largest high-growth emerging economies in the world, the others being Russia, India and China, christened the BRIC countries by the bankers Goldman Sachs. As the world’s defence and aerospace businesses attended the recent Latin America Aerospace and Defence (LAAD) 2011 exhibition and conference in Brazil, in China South Africa was formally joining this elite association.

Paramount Group, the largest privately owned group of defence companies in Africa, was a major exhibitor at LAAD 2011, recognised as one of the most important global gatherings of the defence sector. Founded in 1994, we develop and design solutions to tackle defence, internal security and peacekeeping issues.

Our charismatic founder and Executive Chairman, Ivor Ichikowitz, has long been a passionate advocate for South Africa’s defence industry. He recognises the significance of South Africa’s BRICS membership that is set to herald a new era for its defence industries which, in collaboration with those of the other members, could challenge the US and European dominance of the sector.

Paramount Group’s success has its roots in South Africa’s apartheid legacy that saw the development of a highly competent and innovative defence industry. The Group has been responsible for a range of flexible, versatile military improvised explosive device (IED)- and mine-protected vehicles, identified as a growth market in South America. These include Paramount’s Marauder and Matador, and the Maverick, a 4 x 4 armoured internal security vehicle.

We are already in discussion with South American governments about our world-class armoured vehicle technology and both the Marauder and Maverick will begin in-country trials, the successful outcome of which could lead to Paramount Group setting up manufacturing facilities in the region.

Last year, Paramount launched a new advanced armoured vehicle, the Mbombe Low Profile Vehicle (PLPV). Designed, developed and built in less than a year at our Innovation Centre in Midrand, it is currently undergoing an extensive series of mobility and durability trials in South Africa.

For us people survivability is absolute. No government should ever have an excuse for sending its troops into a combat zone without the necessary protection.

The Mbombe PLPV offers the highest level of ballistic protection of any 6 x 6 currently on the market. It was designed for use across the full military spectrum, including peacekeeping, peace enforcement, counter insurgency operations and conventional manoeuvre warfare. Projected variants include a baseline armour personnel carrier, an ambulance and a command post vehicle, while an 8 x 8 version is on the drawing board.

As with all of Paramount’s vehicles, several engine/driveline/gearbox options are available for the Mbombe to create a cost-effective and customised solution for the customer.

Paramount’s Innovation Centre was tasked with simplifying the construction of the vehicle with extensive use of off-the-shelf components that would enable it to be assembled anywhere in the world.

We have been an active participant in Africa’s force modernisation drive and greater involvement in UN peacekeeping missions, which require flexible and well equipped forces. This is mirrored by Brazil’s increasing commitment to numerous UN missions worldwide, five of which are in Africa. With Paramount’s wide experience of peacekeeping support, ranging from providing camp systems, logistic equipment and personal protection gear, to specialist vehicles, we are in a good position to share our expertise in this specialist market sector.

In addition to developing new military vehicles, the Paramount Group provides and manages vehicle upgrade programmes that include long-term maintenance support, training and spares packages. We are also involved in the aerospace, maritime and communications markets. Last year we acquired a stake in Aerosud, South Africa’s largest independent aerospace company that manufactures components for Eurofighter Typhoon and Airbus A400M. With worldwide interest steadily growing in Brazil’s state-of-the-art KC-390 airlifter, seen as a potential replacement for the ubiquitous C-130, Aerosud is ideally placed to partner Embraer in its production for international customers.

Paramount Group is in the forefront of forming military vehicle manufacturing partnerships with several countries, including India and Azerbaijan. Earlier this year we signed a joint venture with the United Arab Emirates’ International Golden Group (IGG) that will market and distribute Paramount’s range of IED and mine-protected vehicles in the Middle East.

Brazil and South Africa are both committed to improving their defence industrial capabilities in which research and development is an essential ingredient. Each has developed a high degree of self reliance while recognising that their defence industries have different, but potentially complementary strengths.

To this end the Paramount Group’s record of providing innovative fully integrated and cost effective defence and security systems and solutions will fit well with Brazil’s desire to enhance domestic manufacturing by industrial participation and defence technology transfer.