SA missile company reports new technology development project and successful weapon test

19th April 2013 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

South African missiles and unmanned air vehicles company Denel Dynamics has unveiled a new missile technology development programme. The new programme, designated Marlin, is focused on technology for a new family of all-weather air defence missiles. The intent is to produce both air-to-air missile (AAM) and surface-to-air missile (SAM) versions of the Marlin. The AAM model would be in the beyond-visual-range category while the SAM would come in naval and army versions.

South Africa is currently investing in risk-reduction technology for the programme. This could lead to a missile demonstrator. However, these activities are intended to form the basis of a joint development programme with a friendly country, inspired by the successful A-Darter programme with Brazil. Investment from a partner country will allow the Marlin initiative to become a full-scale weapon development programme.

“As seen with the A-Darter programme, this type of initiative can sustain and grow industry,” highlighted Denel Dynamics CEO Jan Wessels. “Competitive, indigenous guided missiles design and development capability serve a number of strategic objectives for both South Africa and other advanced developing nations. “Locally developed defence products translate into improved technological capability for both countries and create an independent defence capability that is of strategic importance.”

The development programme for the A-Darter will come to an end towards the end of next year (to be followed by the production programme). The missile is currently entering its qualification phase. Wessels reported that there has been great synergy between the South African and Brazilian teams working on the project in terms of vision, technical capability and work ethic.

“We look forward to expanding on this through more joint programmes,” he affirmed. The unveiling of the Marlin programme coincided with the opening of the LAAD Defence and Security 2013 exhibition, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Separately, the company also recently announced that the Al Tariq precision-guided munition (PGM), developed by Tawazun Dynamics, its joint venture with United Arab Emirates company Tawazun Holdings, had successfully executed a difficult mission profile during a flight test evaluation. This test saw the weapon used against a laser-designated target. It effectively scored a direct hit (the ‘miss distance’ was less than half a metre).

In the test, the Al Tariq was launched off the track of the target and was programmed to, during its terminal phase, enter the target area from a different direction. “This implies the missile had to perform a dog-leg manoeuvre and the flight path had to be calculated dynamically ‘on the fly’,” said Al Tariq programme manager Coenie Loock. This mission profile was selected to provide a thorough test of the PGM.

Tawazun Dynamics describes the Al Tariq as “a family of strap-on bomb kit systems, used on [US-standard] MK81, MK82 and MK83 bombs. Al-Tariq provides the user with all-weather, day or night operational capabilities, using GPS/INS (global positioning system/inertial navigation system) guidance. Increased targeting accuracy can be achieved by using an Imaging Infrared with complete Automatic Target Recognition capability, or a semi-active laser seeker.”

Denel Dynamics reported that the standard version of the PGM had a range of 40 km but that the long-range version had a range of 100 km. The accuracy of the weapon is independent of its range. It can also be programmed to attack targets from specified directions and using different dive angles.

“This is a great result for Denel Dynamics and reflects the success of the joint venture announcement in September 2012 with Abu Dhabi-based Tawazun Holdings, for the development, manufacturing, assembly and integration of precision-guided weapon systems in Tawazun Dyamics, opening up the international gateway to potential new opportunities,” said the South African company in a press release. Denel Dynamics, which is part of the State-owned Denel defence industrial group, has a 49% share in Tawazun Dynamics. Denel Dynamics is seeking to become a leader in advancing technology amongst developing countries, including the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa group (better known as Brics).