South African specialist armoured and mine-protected vehicles and systems company BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa (Land Systems South Africa) is urging the South African government to scrap its current plan to buy European vehicles to replace the South African Army’s old and obsolete Ratel (‘honey badger’) infantry fighting vehi- cles, and acquire the locally designed RG41 instead. The local company claims this will create some 2 000 jobs in South Africa as well as being a cheaper option.
Under Project Hoefyster (‘horseshoe’), to replace the more-than-30-year-old Ratels, the South African Army is planning to obtain some 268 Badger 8 × 8 armoured infantry fighting vehicles (AIFVs) in a programme worth more than R8-billion. The Badger will be a combination of a Finnish vehicle, the Patria AMV, and a South African turret, developed by Denel Land Systems (DLS). South Africa has not yet placed a production order for the Badger.
Now Land Systems South Africa wants Pretoria to abandon the Badger and instead fit the Denel turret to its recently developed 8 × 8 RG41 and use this combination to fulfil Project Hoefyster. “Hoefyster was launched in 1997 and then relaunched in 2003 on open international tender. Denel Land Systems was selected as the prime contractor. As South Africa had no 8 × 8 design, DLS partnered with Patria,” explains Land Systems South Africa MD Johan Steyn.
But things are different now. “We have the RG41, the only 8 × 8 [AIFV] in the world, designed from a clean sheet of paper, for mine protection. It was designed to cost and we are 100% sure that this vehicle is cheaper than the international competitors’.” Development of the RG41 started in 2008 and took two-and-a-half years and cost R25-million. “It was origi- nally developed for the export market.” The RG41 also has at least 70% – Steyn is confident it is nearer 80% – local content. If the local vehicle is chosen, “around 100 local suppliers will benefit”.
“We are not recommending this in opposition to Denel,” he stresses. “This would not be to the detriment of Denel at all. They are the turret people. Our bigger vision is that we put the Denel Hoefyster turret on this vehicle – the RG41 – and export it. I think we’ll do very well. We have a price advantage.” The RG41 is already attracting foreign interest.
Land Systems South Africa, because of the flow of work created by its export orders, can accommodate just about any production rate desired by the South African Army, from only two a year to more than 100 a year, in line with its budgetary requirements. “The [South African] decision- makers should really seriously look at this vehicle,” he urges. “Switching from the Patria to the RG41 should not cause any real delay.”
Originally, when the Patria AMV was chosen as the basis for the Badger, Land Systems South Africa entered into an agreement with the Finnish company to produce the vehicle, under licence, in South Africa – this would have helped meet Patria’s offset obligations for the programme. But delays in implementing Hoefyster resulted in this agreement not being implemented before reaching its terminal date last year, and lapsing. This has freed up Land Systems South Africa to offer the RG41 in place of the AMV.
Regardless of South Africa’s decision, the company is very optimistic about the future of the RG41, which it can deliver as a complete system, fitted with a remote-controlled turret developed by its Dynamics business unit, or which it can supply for fitting with the turret of the customer’s choice. “We have serious interest in the RG41 from the Middle East. We know countries in Asia want 8 × 8 vehicles. There are great opportunities over the next five to ten years,” highlights Steyn. “The payload capability of this vehicle is around 11 t, so you can put just about any turret on it.”
Although part of the UK- based global BAE Systems group, Land Systems South Africa is legally a South African company with a 25% South African shareholding, and of the six directors on its board, four, including the executive directors, are South African.