South Africa’s dedicated missile and unmanned air vehicle (UAV) company, Denel Dynamics, is one of the country’s largest, most advanced and most capable high-technology companies. With a growing international reputation, the business, part of the State-owned Denel defence industrial group, is a major centre for research and development (R&D) in the country and is constantly developing and upgrading its existing products, and working on and conceiving new ones, for both the domestic and international markets.
“Technology R&D is ingrained – it’s the heart of our business,” affirms Denel Dynamics CEO Jan Wessels. “What we do is also a national growth priority in the context of government’s New Growth Path.”
The company has four main purposes. “To satisfy the unique missile, precision weapon and UAV requirements of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) by developing fit-for-purpose technology and product solutions for the harsh African environment; to enable the export of these products to customers and countries with similar technological requirements, thus generating valuable foreign exchange; to act as a very powerful locomotive for stimulating the wider high-technology industry and skills base in the country, reaching far beyond the boundaries of precision weapons and UAVs as such; and to provide a strong platform from which bilateral programmes can be initiated with fellow friendly developing countries – for example, the A-Darter binational R&D programme with Brazil,” he states. As a con- sequence of these activities, the company also supports the creation of sustainable high-technology careers, both directly and indirectly related to its work, thereby bene-fiting the entire country.
Home and Away
Denel Dynamics has also identified four ‘key success factors’ for the fulfilment of these purposes. Two of these are domestic. These are: collaboration between the company and its domestic customers – the SANDF, Department of Defence (DoD) and the DoD’s equipment procurement, R&D and disposals agency, Armscor; and the development of an ‘RSA Inc’ concept of partnership between Denel Dynamics and other South African com- panies to maximise South Africa’s impact in a market dominated by huge groups from major powers. “Denel Dynamics is com- mitted to spread potential participation as widely as possible in South Africa,” assures Wessels.
The other two key success factors are international. One is the development of political collaboration and partnerships with other emerging countries that, for example, are members of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa) and G20 groups. South Africa is more advanced in missiles technology than some of these countries, giving the South African government a valuable asset in developing strategic partnerships with these States and opening the way to jointly funded development projects, as has already happened with Brazil. The other is related to, and derives from, this: strategic partnerships with foreign companies, not necessarily only from other developing countries, which strengthen Denel Dynamics’ competitiveness in international markets.
The company is divided into two units, missiles and UAVs. As Engineering News recently (July 29, 2011) reported on the latest developments regarding the UAV business, this account will focus on the missiles unit.
Denel Dynamics is active in most segments of the missiles business – air-to-air (AAM), surface-to-air (SAM), air-to-surface (ASM), antitank guided weapons (ATGWs) and precision guided munitions (PGMs – guided free fall or gliding bombs). Missiles and PGMs are very high technology products which are very expensive to develop, and Denel Dynamics, by international standards, is a rather small company. Consequently, it is heavily dependent upon R&D funding from the DoD.
On average, about 80% of the R&D funding Denel Dynamics needs to develop guided weapons is provided by the DoD, with the remaining 20% coming from the company itself.
But the payback for the country can be considerable.
Wessels cites a particularly successful case of a weapon system, which he will not identify, but is believed to be the Umbani PGM, that has been in the process of development since 2002 with R100-million in funding from the DoD/South African Air Force (SAAF) plus R20-million of Denel Dynamics’ own money. This R120-million funded the development and proving of the basic system technology and the development of the concepts for three advanced versions (one of them long range) of the weapon.
At this point, with the system’s core technology proven, an undisclosed foreign country stepped in and ordered the weapon in a R1.2-billion deal. This deal includes the development and industrialisation of all three advanced variants and their integration on different types of aircraft (including the BAE Systems Hawk, operated by the SAAF). The customer has already indicated a follow-up requirement worth more than R1-billion.
“The South African technology and industry base is greatly strengthened,” highlights Wessels, and jobs are preserved and created at a number of local companies. Further, it means that, when the time comes, the SAAF will be able to acquire what will have become an off-the-shelf weapon and choose between four versions (the basic and the three advanced models), as well as decide that the tax payers’ money (which could come to R500-million) used in buying this type of weapon will be spent overwhelmingly in South Africa.
Note that this programme ran for some ten years from the original concept to the proving of the technology (but not the industrial- isation and start of production) of the system. This is a pretty typical timescale for high technology defence projects in any country (in peacetime) and illustrates the importance of long-term technology planning on the part of the DoD and Armscor, as well as by the company.
This case is unusual in that the first order for the weapon is an export order, and not a local, order. Worldwide, export sales usually only follow after the manufacturer’s home Defence Ministry acquires the system concerned. The same applies to Denel Dynamics. “We usually need the SANDF as a launch customer,” says Wessels, “but, typically, less than 20% of production could go to the SANDF and more than 80% to export customers”.
Sea Spears, Sky Darters
The company is enjoying particular success with its Umkhonto SAM and A-Darter infrared (IR) homing AAM.
The Umkhonto (which translates into English as ‘spear’) is a naval SAM that is already in operational service with the South African Navy (SAN) and Finnish Navy (and was selected for purchase by a another Scandinavian navy before defence cuts forced the termination of the acquisition). The Umkhonto system is designed to allow the simultaneous engagement of multiple targets.
The company is now seeking to further develop the missile, which currently fulfils what is called ‘point defence’: that is, it is intended to defend the ship carrying it. In contrast, ‘area defence’ missiles can defend a number of ships sailing together, such as a task group (naval vessels only) or a convoy (merchant ships escorted by naval vessels). Deployment of even a limited area defence version of the Umkhonto would significantly augment the operational capabilities of the SAN, while making the missile even more attractive on the export market.
“If we fit the Umkhonto with a new, dual pulse, rocket motor, we can increase its range by more than 20 km,” reports Denel Dynamics air defence missile group manager Erick Huysamer. “If we add boosters, we can extend the range by more than 40 km.” The latter would make the Umkhonto a true area defence SAM.
(It should be noted that Denel Dynamics missiles are powered by rocket motors developed by Rheinmetall Denel Munitions, in which the Denel group has a 49% share- holding. A dual pulse rocket motor would allow the selection of either higher speed, shorter range or lower speed, longer range, options, depending on the tactical situation.)
However, extending the range significantly also requires the replacement of the current IR seeker head with a radar seeker head, which would also improve the all-weather capability of the SAM. The development of the long-range version of the missile will require a foreign partner. While one trend of development for the Umkhonto is long range and fitting a radar seeker, another is to fit a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to the IR version of the missile, so that it can also act as a surface-to-surface missile (SSM).
Further, the company is also looking at integrating the IR-guided Umkhonto onto offshore patrol vessels (OPVs). These are simple, affordable naval vessels used for ‘constabulary duties’ such as fisheries protection, antismuggling, antipiracy and so on.
However, for many small navies, OPVs are their biggest vessels and there is a real interest in increasing the operational capabilities of these ships, provided it can be done affordably.
OPVs usually have rather basic sensor suites composed of optronics (including IR) with 360˚ coverage and a navigation radar. “We’re looking to integrate the Umkhonto-IR with these sensors,” says Huysamer. “We intend to partner with a big international company to look at solutions in this area. The Umkhonto for OPVs would be a dual-role weapon – SAM and SSM.”
The remaining proposed development of the Umkhonto is as a land-based, containerised, truck-mounted SAM. Early warning would be provided by a truck-mounted extendable mast radar, and one such radar could support up to four launchers.
The A-Darter is a fifth-generation short-range AAM, and is thus one of the leading weapons in its category today. “This technology has come from many technology development programmes over many years,” states the company’s AAM manager, Denise Wilson. Originally a purely South African project, in 2006, it became a joint project with Brazil and has since then been developed on a shared basis.
“The A-Darter programme has developed a new generation of rocket scientists and engineers, through mentorships and training; developed skills and capabilities in Denel and the wider industry; created jobs; and created a new sustainable international partnership with Brazil, including a commitment to cooperate on other projects,” she sums up. “The A-Darter has also reinforced South Africa’s international credibility through its integration on the [Saab] Gripen [fighter]. We have cleared the full envelope of the A-Darter on the Gripen, and the Swedish test pilots think we have a ‘cool missile’.”
The A-Darter is now rapidly approaching qualification. Integration of the AAM onto the Hawk fighter-trainer is proceeding in parallel. The SAAF will receive training missiles and operational capability from 2013 on. There are also plans and proposals to develop further versions of the A-Darter, such as an A-Darter Light, an A-Darter Extended Range, and an A-Darter ASM, as well as projects to continue the development of the current missile to create an A-Darter Mark (Mk) 2 and later an A-Darter Mk 3.
In addition to the A-Darter, the company has a project to develop a new radar-guided, beyond-visual-range AAM (BVRAAM), currently known as the B-Darter. This will be based on ten years of investment since the deployment of South Africa’s last indigenous BVRAAM, the V4.
Central to this project has been the development of powerful radar technology compact enough to fit into the airframe of a BVRAAM. (Denel Dynamics has confirmed that this technology will be directly employed for the seeker head of the radar-guided version of the Umkhonto.)
“We are ready to produce a BVRAAM demonstrator,” affirms Wilson. “But we need an investment partner for full-scale industrial development, like on the A-Darter. At home, we need government support and a user requirement from the SAAF.”
The proposed B-Darter would probably have a maximum range greater than 80 km. “Our target is to be in the middle of the market –medium range and medium cost,” she asserts.
Earth Movers, Tank Killers
Denel Dynamics also produces ASMs and PGMs. The longest ranged of these weapons is the Raptor. Originally developed with DoD funding, foreign investment has allowed the development of an improved version, the Raptor II, which is in production for the investor country. While the Raptor I is an unpowered PGM, the Raptor II is an ASM, with significantly greater range.
“The Raptor is a more strategic weapon, in production, mature, with constant upgrades,” explains company standoff weapons group Umbani production manager Coenie Loock. “We recently conducted a highly successful test in a foreign country. The weapon was launched at a range of 75 km and, fitted with a new seeker, and with no in-course [data] updates, hit the target precisely.”
The Raptor II has a range of some 80 km if launched at an altitude of about 5 000 m, increasing to more than 120 km from some 12 000 m. (The Raptor I has been reported to have a maximum range greater than 60 km.) It has an optical seeker – either TV or imaging IR (IIR) – and a hybrid inertial navigation system (INS), including GPS and an accuracy of less than 2 m.
Denel Dynamics has a proposal for a Raptor III, which would have a maximum range approaching 300 km, if launched at 12 000 m. It would have the same types of guidance and seeker systems as the Raptor II but would be more accurate still. The company is awaiting feedback from potential customers before deciding how and when to proceed with the project.
The tactical end of Denel Dynamics’ current air-to-ground range is the Umbani PGM. More strictly, the Umbani (the word translates into English as ‘lightning’) is a PGM kit – guidance system, control surfaces and stabili-sation fins – which can be attached to standard US/North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) Mk 81 (120 kg), Mk 82 (250 kg) and Mk 83 (500 kg) bombs. (These types of bombs are also produced and used by many countries outside Nato.)
“The Umbani is a lower-cost weapon, with a launch altitude of up to 11 000 m above sea level and an operational range of up to 100 km,” says Loock. “GPS is the heart of the guidance system, but you can also have INS, or INS and a laser seeker, or INS and TV/IIR, or INS and a proximity fuse. You can even add a booster rocket module at the rear of the weapon.”
The Umbani, the development of which was funded by the DoD, has been integrated on to the SAAF’s Hawks (which have an operational as well as a training role) and the PGM has won a major export contract. “We have a project to extend the range to 200 km,” he reveals. “We have a client who wants to put in a datalink to update target information. We can also add a wing kit to extend the range.”
Denel Dynamics is also working on a totally new weapon concept, currently being referred to simply as the Small Guided Missile (SGM). Today, in many operational (including peacekeeping) missions there is a need for extremely precise weapons with small warheads that destroy their targets but, in the process, produce only limited blast effects, minimising the risks to civilians and civilian infrastructure (homes, shops, clinics and so on – otherwise known as collateral damage), and which can be launched from fast jets.
Currently, there is only one such weapon operational – the Brimstone missile, used only by the UK and Saudi Arabia, and developed for Britain by European missile group MBDA (with Boeing of the US as the prime subcontractor), which entered service in 2006. This weapon is being employed by the UK Royal Air Force with great success in the current Libyan War, arousing much international interest. There is thus a big oppor-tunity is this segment of the market.
Denel Dynamics has been working on the SGM concept for a while now. “We are currently conceptualising it for a potential client,” says Wessels. “The development timescale depends on the client’s procedures. But there is broad generic interest in this type of weapon. We have been asked by a number of countries if we have an SGM-category weapon, but we are not marketing it yet. There is no brochure for it yet and the SAAF has no official requirement for this type of weapon yet.”
Currently, the concept is for a weapon with a mass of less than 50 kg that would be able to impact on its target at angles (which would be programmable) of 10˚ to 90˚. It would have a maximum range of 40 km if launched from about 70 m above ground level, increasing to 80 km from 10 000 m.
It would be able to penetrate the top area armour of a main battle tank (MBT) or concrete. “It would have a programmable warhead – no explosion, partial explosion, full explosion. The ‘kill’ radius would vary from 1 m (no explosion) to 30 m (but not lethal at 30 m). The accuracy would be about 1 m,” reports Loock. (In no-explosion mode, the SGM would destroy the target using only the kinetic energy it had acquired since being released from its carrier aircraft.)
The SGM is aimed at arming UAVs or at giving conventional attack aircraft large weapons loads. “A fighter could carry up to 32 SGMs,” he points out. “They would be fire and forget weapons. A fighter could ripple fire all 32 in a swarming attack.”
In the ATGW area, Denel Dynamics has two products – the Ingwe (‘leopard’) and Mokopa. The Ingwe has been in service for quite a few years now, both with the SANDF and internationally. In South Africa, the Ingwe is used by the South African Army, arming the tank destroyer version of its Ratel fighting vehicle. For an export customer, it has been integrated onto the Russian Mil Mi-24 family of attack helicopters.
The Ingwe is a laser-beam-guided weapon (it follows a laser beam until it hits the target) with a maximum range of 5 km and a maximum armour penetration capability of 1 000 mm. Denel Dynamics continues to upgrade the Ingwe, and will demonstrate a multipurpose penetrator warhead for the missile later this year, which would be used to destroy bunkers.
The Mokopa is a much more recent design, and is now ready to go into production. It has a maximum range of 10 km and a maximum penetration of 1 350 mm, and uses semiactive laser (SAL) guidance (a laser beam illuminates the target and the missile homes onto that illumination – it does not fly down the beam).
Key factors driving the development of ATGWs today are, on the one hand, the major advances in armour and ‘active protection’ systems for MBTs (the latter being small missiles which intercept and destroy incoming ATGWs or unguided antitank rockets, like RPGs) and, on the other, the increasing use of ATGWs as multipurpose weapons, because of their accuracy, and small and directional warheads, which reduce collateral damage. Internationally, ATGWs are often used to arm UAVs and other low- and slow-flying aircraft, such as observation and even transport aircraft, to create ‘gunships’ that are cheaper to operate than the classic ATGW armed helicopters. The company is seeking to keep abreast of these trends.
The Mokopa, especially, because of its range, can potentially fulfil a wide range of roles. “For South Africa, possible future platforms are light armoured vehicles, UAVs, light fixed-wing aircraft, light helicopters, naval helicopters and OPVs,” highlights Denel Dynamics surface targets group manager Petrus Mentz. “We are busy engineering the integration of the Mokopa onto the [AgustaWestland] Lynx [maritime] helicopter. We are working on light heli- copters – a cost-effective solution. And, obviously, Rooivalk is still there!” (The Mokopa has been test-fired from Rooivalks, but has not yet been formally integrated onto the aircraft, meaning that the missile cannot yet be used by the helicopter in operational situations. This is purely the result of SAAF funding priorities.)
As a consequence, the company is looking at various developments for the Mokopa, such as fitting a fixed seeker head for the SAL, or adding a stabilised IIR seeker to the SAL seeker, adding a datalink, fitting tandem high-explosive antitank warheads or high-explosive fragmentation warheads. It is also planning a lighter Mokopa for use on UAVs. This version has been given the name Impi.
But there are also plans for radical developments based on the Ingwe experience. “We are looking to have a very stealthy missile, with a bit more range but reduced mass, giving better performance,” he states. “It would have a multipurpose warhead – direct or top attack. (We need to look at the fusing.) It would be capable of attacking various targets. Its range would be from 500 m to 2 000 m and it would have vehicles and helicopters as its launch platforms. To minimise radar cross section, it probably couldn’t have a seeker head so it will probably be a beam rider. Its launch signature will be reduced.”
The long development times for high-tech- nology defence systems put all companies in the business in the awkward position of having to try to predict the future. To this end, Denel Dynamics has a Strategic Engineering Group, pondering future scenarios and the tech- nologies required, especially by the SANDF, to meet them.
“How do you look into the future?” queries the head of this group, Dr Gerrit Viljoen. “It’s very difficult!” South Africa has been at peace for a little over 20 years now, but the world, if anything, is getting more turbulent. Fortunately, a number of major countries with recent (and continuing) war experience publish their experiences, lessons and future warfighting concepts on the Internet, so anyone can access them. (They give away no secrets.) “So we read them, and we attend international conferences.” The company seeks to have a 10- to 20-year view into the future.
One new technology area into which it is moving is active protection for MBTs and other armoured vehicles. The Russians and Israelis have both developed and deployed such systems, and the Israeli system is already proving itself operationally.
Denel Dynamics has already developed the interceptor missile part of such a system. Designated Mongoose 1, it has a minimum range of 5 m and a maximum range of 20 m. It detonates the warhead of the incoming weapon. The Mongoose 1 was successfully demonstrated in the US last year. A further development is the Mongoose 3 missile, which is intended to shoot down tank shells and mortar bombs as well as missiles and RPGs and would also have a minimum range of 5 m but a maximum range of 300 m.
Other proposals being considered by Denel Dynamics include a guided 35 mm anti- aircraft shell and associated acquisition and tracking system, and a man-portable Fire Support for Infantry Missile (FSIM), which would be a low-cost weapon intended to replace systems like the RPG-7 and its Western counterparts. However, the FSIM would be able to loiter for a while after launch and would be able to attack targets not in the line of sight of the launcher.
“Technology is a very important force multiplier,” concludes Viljoen. “And Denel Dynamics is the technology partner for the SANDF.”