South African guided weapons, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and space company Denel Dynamics plans to increase its revenues to more than R2-billion within five years. This was reported by company CEO Tsepo Monaheng at its annual “Show and Tell” briefing in Centurion, just south of Pretoria. In the financial year 2014/15, Denel Dynamics achieved revenues of R1.49-billion. For 2015/16, it hopes to receive almost R1.46-billion (the apparent fall is because the Integrated Systems Solutions unit has been moved out of Denel Dynamics, to form the new Denel Integrated Systems and Maritime division). In 2016/17, revenues should rise to about R1.65-billion, in 2017/18 to around R1.86-billion, in 2018/19 to some R2.24-billion and in 2019/20 to almost R2.44-billion. “We should be able to achieve this growth in revenues,” he assured.
Naturally, the company also wants to increase its profits. Net profit after tax in 2014/15 was R99-million. As with revenues, this figure is expected to show an apparent drop during this financial year, due to the restructuring of the company, to some R78-million. In 2016/17, this is forecast to increase to R84-million and in 2017/18 to R115-million. The company predicts there will be a significant rise to R151-million in 2018/19 and to R174-million in 2019/20.
These revenue and profit increases are part of the company’s five-year plan. This also includes investing in technologies, in technical skills, in products and in local industry. There will also be a focus on developing the individual employees of the company and their individual performance. This is a particularly important aspect of the plan. “If we don’t [focus on individuals], we won’t reach that five-year plan,” he affirmed. “If we don’t have the people, that will be the end of us.” The company already supports school pupils with Saturday schools, awards bursaries for engineering students and puts new engineering recruits through a 12-month internship process before integrating them on actual programmes. To date, it has funded 20 engineering bursaries a year; this will now be increased to 25, even though this will slightly reduce profits.
He noted that there were always obstacles and impediments to growth and that the company had to ensure that it overcame these. “The journey is not a smooth journey, it’s not a small journey. Most of the time [however] we’ll win the battles.” The battles that must be won include maintaining (if not expanding) market share and winning orders. “We have to continue supporting our customers to the best of our ability. We have to be aligned with government, we [also] have to be aligned with government foreign policy.”
He pointed out that growing the company’s revenues would benefit the wider South African industry, through Denel Dynamics’ supply chain. “We want a broader supply chain,” stated Monaheng. “We won’t succeed if we don’t have a stronger supply chain. We have to ensure that the local industry is strong enough to back us up, otherwise we will fail. We have to make sure our broader supply chain is strengthened. We have to be able to grow and develop new suppliers. We should achieve industry competitiveness – not just Denel, but the broader South African industry.”
Denel Dynamics is part of the State-owned Denel defence industrial group, and can trace its history back to the 1960s and a research unit within the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. “But the focus hasn’t changed,” he assured. “We’re going to continue to create solutions that will be required, not only by the defence force but by our security systems generally.”
And not only for South Africa. The company has to be able to compete in international markets and also meet the needs of friendly countries, in order to generate the desired revenues and profits. This necessity has already seen the company develop strategic partnerships with other countries. “If we’re not a strategic partner, we’ll not be relevant to our country,” he explained. “We’d like, going forward, to increase our smart partnerships.” Two such partnerships that are already public knowledge are with Brazil and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There is now another such partnership, with another Middle East country. “With Brazil, we have a very successful partnership. In the UAE, we can create business out of this partnership.” In the latter case, the business is now shaping up to be ten times greater than originally expected. There are great opportunities with the third partnership as well.
“As the threat changes, we have to adapt our technology accordingly,” he pointed out. “Precision has become critical.” The company needs to both develop new products and constantly update its existing ones. And the major new product development programme is the Marlin, which will be a family of radar-guided missiles. The initial base version will be a beyond visual range (BVR) AAM. Later, a surface-to-air (SAM) version will be developed.
“We’re currently busy with the Marlin technology demonstrator system,” reported chief programme manager: air-to-air technologies Jaco Botha. “In the future, we’d like to do full-scale development.” Technologies required for the Marlin include sensors, seekers, rocket motors, digital electronics, advanced mechanics, digital servos, inertial measurement and navigation, satellite navigation positioning, simulation and test equipment.
Currently under development is the radar seeker for the new missile. This includes the development of the antenna, electronics, including the radio frequency front end (the electronics immediately behind the antenna), the gimbal assembly and the gimbal power electronics. The radome is being developed by an overseas subcontractor, as that capability does not yet exist in South Africa. “We need a local supplier,” observed Monaheng. “We’re looking to establish that capability.” Once the radar seeker is completed, it will be mounted on a new flight test pod now being developed by the company. This will be integrated on to the Saab Gripen (the South African Air Force’s [SAAF’s] front-line fighter) – initial mounting tests have been done – and will permit the flight testing of a range of Denel Dynamics’ systems in the future. It will, in fact, initially be used for infrared (IR) seeker tests (an objective of the company is to increase the range of its IR seekers).
To achieve the required range and high terminal speed and manoeuvrability, the Marlin will use a dual pulse rocket motor (DPMR), the technology for which is being developed by Rheinmetall Denel Munition. The DPMR is basically two solid fuel rocket motors arranged in line. The first rocket accelerates the missile after launch. After it burns out, the missile flies on its momentum until it reaches the engagement envelope with the target, when, commanded by the missile’s autopilot, the second rocket ignites (exhausting into the empty chamber of the first rocket and then out of the nozzle at the rear of the missile), accelerating the weapon again and making it more difficult to evade. A demonstrator for the DPMR has already been tested on a bench.
“The Marlin [technology demonstrator] is fully funded by the Department of Defence, through Armscor,” Monaheng explained. “We’re looking for a foreign partner,” as there is not enough local funding to fully develop the missile. “There are some interested parties.” (Brazilian sources have told Engineering News that that country is very interested in joining the Marlin project. The Brazilian Air Force wants to continue and build on the highly successful cooperation achieved with the A-Darter project and a delegation recently visited South Africa to discuss the Marlin. Unfortunately, Brazil is in the midst of an economic crisis and the country’s 2015 defence budget was cut by 24.8% in May.)
Development of the first version of the A-Darter, a latest-generation IR-homing AAM, has been successfully concluded, with production due to start in South Africa soon. Developed in cooperation and cofunding with Brazil, the missile has already won an export order from an unidentified third country. (Brazil will start producing A-Darters later, the plan being to deliver the first missiles at the same time as the country receives its first Gripen E fighters.) Now, attention is switching to developing a Mark Two version of the missile and beyond that, a Mark Three. Also under consideration are an A-Darter Light model (for use by helicopters) and an A-Darter Ultralight, for UAVs.
Spears and Rams
Another successful Denel Dynamics product is the Umkhonto (Spear) naval SAM. This is in operational service with the South African Navy and the Finnish Navy and has been ordered by a third navy. Denel Dynamics has also developed a truck-mounted land version of the system.
The basic version of the Umkhonto is the Umkhonto-IR (for infrared), a short-range ship defence weapon, which is currently in production. “Now we intend to increase the range of this missile in response to some client requirements,” reported air defence department manager Erick Huysamer. This, the Umkhonto-EIR (E for extended range), will allow the weapon to be used as a local area air defence system – that is, to protect other nearby ships as well as the launching ship. “The basic layout of this missile is exactly the same as the Umkhonto-IR.” This is achieved by shrinking the size of the missile’s electronics and increasing the size of its rocket motor.
The next step will be the Umkhonto-ER, which will use a lot of the technology being developed for the Marlin, including the radar seeker and the DPMR. Basically, this Umkhonto version will use the front end of the Marlin and a scaled-up version of the DPMR. As the Umkhonto uses thrust vector control, the thrust vector system will have to be upgraded to handle the greater stresses imposed by the longer burn time of the DPMR. Initial tests have been successful but much work remains to be done. Also, to be effective, the Umkhonto-ER will need to be supported by “a serious radar,” in Huysamer’s words. Denel Dynamics is working with Saab in this regard, focusing on the latter’s Giraffe 4A active electronically-scanned array radar.
The air defence department is also working on a counter rocket, artillery and mortar (better known as C-Ram) system, to protect army and air bases from attack. This is being done in conjunction with Germany’s Rheinmetall (focusing on the fire control system and radar) and is based on the South African company’s Mongoose for very short (about a kilometre) range interceptor missile.
Cats and Snakes
Denel Dynamics now categorises what used to be anti-tank missiles as “surface target missiles” because, worldwide, recent decades have seen weapons in this category used for many roles other than killing tanks. The company currently has two such weapons, the Ingwe (leopard) and Mokopa (black mamba). “The Ingwe is still with us, still alive and well, still going forward,” said surface target missiles product manager Petrus Mentz. “The Mokopa is a bit later [in design], a local product, leading to export markets.” The Ingwe and Mokopa are both subjects of a new Denel Dynamics strategic partnership, with an unnamed Middle Eastern country (not the UAE).
The Ingwe was a development of the ZT-3 missile, which, in turn, was based on the American Raytheon BGM-71 Tow anti-tank missile. The wire-guided Ingwe can be mounted on vehicles and helicopters. It will be fitted to the anti-tank version of the South African Army’s new Badger infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and to the Malaysian Army’s new AV8 IFVs. The weapon has been frequently updated to prevent it from becoming obsolete. The Badger programme has so far seen 11 successful Ingwe firings and the AV8 programme 13, five of them by the Malaysian Army. A lightweight, tripod- mounted version of the Ingwe is now in the preliminary stages of development. This is intended to give greater flexibility for crews operating light vehicles armed with the Ingwe system, allowing them to dismount the weapon and carry it a short distance to a more favourable firing position.
“The Mokopa was developed as the missile for the [Denel Aviation] Rooivalk [Kestrel attack helicopter] programme,” he noted. “We had the opportunity to do a final flight test [on a preproduction Rooivalk] in 2011. We had the opportunity to invite international guests to this. That led to an export contract to integrate it on the [AgustaWestland] Lynx [naval helicopter]. We’ve completed the integration on the helicopter. Because it’s a naval [anti-ship] application, we developed a new high explosive penetrator warhead, which has proved a very successful multirole warhead.” The production of the Mokopa for this customer is now under way. The missile uses semi-active laser (SAL) guidance.
Yet another success story for Denel Dynamics is the Umbani (flash, or lightning) precision guided munition kit. This is the subject of the joint venture with the UAE, through the Tawazun Dynamics company in Abu Dhabi, which is a joint venture between UAE group Tawazun Holdings (with a 51% share) and Denel Dynamics (49%). In the UAE, the system is designated Al Tariq. The UAE has already ordered 1000 units.
The Umbani was originally developed using South African Department of Defence (DoD) funding. As a result, some of the intellectual property of the Umbani belongs to the DoD. But the SAAF has not yet ordered the system. The Umbani/Ai Tariq kit comes in short-range and longer-range versions and can be fitted to Mark (Mk) 81 and Mk 82 bombs. A kit for Mk 83 bombs will also be developed. (Mk 81, Mk 82 and Mk 83 were originally US designations, but are now internationally used, for unguided 114 kg [250 lb], 227 kg [500 lb] and 454 kg [1 000 lb] bombs.)
The Umbani is a low cost system. Currently, an operational test programme is under way in both South Africa and the UAE, involving both the short- and longer-ranged versions. So far, 68 weapons have been dropped and the final total will be around 100. “This is one of the biggest flight test campaigns the company has ever seen,” highlighted stand-off weapons programme manager Thendo Managa. “There’ve been a lot of benefits from this [Umbani] programme, starting with, we’ve been able to win international sales. We’re reconfiguring some of our facilities to cater for the resulting high volume production.” The programme is also stimulating the local supplier base and creating jobs.
There are also programmes and proposals to further develop the system. These include an imaging IR seeker with automatic target recognition, a wireless link between the aircraft and the bomb and the qualification of a SAL seeker (using the same technology as the Mokopa).
Denel Dynamics has another stand-off weapon, the Raptor air-to-ground missile. The Raptor II version has also won an export contract, reportedly to a North African country. Currently, however, the Umbani is a higher priority for the company.
. . . and Ye Shall Find
“Denel Dynamics is well known for its design and development of UAVs, since the 1980s,” pointed out Seeker 400 chief programme manager Sipho Khoza. The company currently offers three UAV designs – the Hungwe, the Seeker 200 and its top-end type, the Seeker 400. “Basically, the Seeker 400 is a high-end, multirole, multimission system. We started developing the Seeker 400 in 2010.”
Primarily intended for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions, the Seeker 400 was developed from the battle-proven Seeker II. The new design has an endurance of 16 hours, as against the ten hours for the Seeker II. Moreover, the Seeker 400 can carry two sensor payloads compared with the Seeker II’s one. Features of the Seeker 400 include an integrated brake system for landing, dual digital data links, video transmission to mobile receivers, underwing pylons for future weaponisation, combined satellite and inertial navigation system (capable of both using the US GPS and Russian Glonass satellite networks) and a maximum payload of 100 kg. The payloads can be programmed to operate themselves in flight. (The payloads themselves are supplied by Airbus Optronics, a South African company of which Denel holds 30%.)
The system includes the ground segment, which comprises a modern, ergonomic mission control unit (accommodating three work stations, for the UAV pilot and two payload operators) with modern man/ machine interfaces and the ability to combine digital maps, satellite imagery and flight data information. The ground segment also includes a tracking and communications unit and two generators to provide power. The UAVs themselves are transported in 6 m containers, each container holding two disassembled Seeker 400s.
A number of successful development flight tests have been carried out, and the first production Seeker 400 has been manufactured and test flown as well as being demonstrated to possible customers. The UAV is in production for an export client, but recent reports have suggested that it has also been ordered by the SAAF.
“Looking at the roadmap – where are we going with the Seeker 400?” queried Khoza. “The next phase is to look at weaponising it. And also fitting it with a satellite communications system.” An automatic takeoff and landing system is being developed. It is intended that, later, it will be equipped to operate in controlled (that is, civilian) airspace.
Denel Dynamics’ newest business is space, specifically satellites and their subsystems. Currently, its top space project is the design, development and assembly of EO-Sat 1, South Africa’s next earth observation satellite. The client is the South African National Space Agency. “The objectives of the EO-Sat 1 mission include – we need to have a locally developed satellite,” explained science and technology senior manager Richard Sato. “We need to localise space technology as much as possible.” This will retain satellite expertise previously developed in the country and help meet national objectives such as industrialisation (developing a national space industry), the development of high-technology capabilities and skills and the broadening of participation in the sector.
“There were some interesting developments as we started to work on the programme,” he affirmed. So far, the company has developed very robust, very compact reaction wheels (a crucial component which steadies the satellite and allows it to be pointed towards the target to be imaged). It has also developed a mission control system (MCS), intended for Cubesats. This is modular, with digital diversity downlink functionality to prevent the downlink problems often found with small satellite missions.
Cubesats are very small satellites, often called nanosatellites. A basic Cubesat measures just 10 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm, although some are longer. Hundreds of these very cheap spacecraft are being developed and launched. “The MCS helps us establish a foothold in the growing, high volume, small satellite market.” Denel Dynamics has its own Cubesat programme, Dynacube-3U, which is an example of a larger Cubesat, with dimensions of 30 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm. This is an extension of the Dynacube intern project of 2012 (see Engineering News January 18, 2013). The plan is to launch Dynacube-3U in 2017 and use it to form a small constellation with another South African Cubesat, ZA-Cube 2 (from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology). Dynacube-3U will have a mass of 4 kg, orbit at 300 km and will demonstrate propulsion technologies as well as study the South Atlantic Anomaly (a high radiation zone over that ocean).
Finally, Denel Dynamics always has a number of small but high-technology engineering research and development projects under way. These are aimed at developing essential new components and subsystems for the company’s various products, substituting for imported elements or keeping up with the latest technological developments.