Mobile Operations "Made In South Africa"
(Source : Denel ; issued Oct. 14 web posted Oct. 21, 2002)
In a focused display of its defense capabilities, South African industry -- including the renowned Denel Group -- is participating in Sofex Jordan 2002, taking place in Amman, Jordan, this week from 14 to 17 October.
"Although we have a very broad-based defense capability, Denel and several key companies in South Africa's defense industry are here to share with our friends in the Middle East our long-standing expertise in the area of mobile operational deployment," explains Denel Deputy CEO Max Sisulu, who is also Chairman of AMD, South Africa's aerospace, maritime and defense industries association.
"We believe modern forces like Jordan's - and others in this part of the world - will increasingly rely on small units being able to move fast and hit hard despite the harsh terrain found here. And of course, the equipment needs to work effectively no matter the conditions."
With its vast and inhospitable environment, South Africa has since the earliest times presented serious challenges to military forces. Moving soldiers and resources across the country's arid or semi-desert terrain, the lack of surface water, fresh food supplies and suffocating heat often severely affected man and animal alike.
Legendary military experts such as King Shaka Zulu were adept at deploying highly mobile forces that were able to strike with deadly effectiveness far from home base. Their equipment and training, combined with innovative tactics and maneuvers, brought these African warriors unsurpassed success at the time.
Subsequent conflicts such as the Anglo-Boer War (1899 to 1902) introduced mobile strike forces - small guerrilla units that wreaked havoc against the large conventional armies and enemy logistic supply lines.
"From those inconspicuous beginnings, South African industry gained a head-start in the design of military equipment for high mobility deployment," Sisulu explains. "Today we field fast Armored Fighting Vehicles and Infantry combat vehicles in wheeled configuration that are world leading, and even 155mm artillery systems renowned for very high mobility as well as accurate, extended range fire in self-propelled, towed or truck-mounted versions."
According to Max Sisulu, even so-called First World countries are now evaluating - or even operating - South Africa's designs and equipment, including wheeled mine-resistant vehicles, landmine clearance systems, extended range artillery ammunition, long range mortars and airborne stabilized observation / surveillance equipment.
At Sofex Jordan 2002, South Africa's focus is on innovative equipment for mobile forces with home base in the Middle East or who may be deployed in the area.
"We are building closer relations with Jordan's own industry, like KADDB, and delegates to Sofex will see South African industry able and willing to collaborate in the areas of new turrets for upgraded combat and personnel vehicles, missiles, guns and cannons."
A key display is the South African "Ratel" Infantry Fighting Vehicle for which KADDB is developing a new turret. Jordan's industry is collaborating with South Africa to also integrate missile turrets, based on South Africa's successful "Ingwe" medium range anti-tank missile and Denel's versatile 20mm GI-2 cannon.
Low maintenance and high accuracy are features of the 20mm GA-1 rapid-fire cannon, which can be stripped and assembled without special tools. With an easily selected dual feed system, the cannon can fire in dust and ice conditions in any orientation. It is integrated on vehicles and naval mounts (also in a helicopter chin mount, such as the Rooivalk attack helicopter). Importantly, the weapon is highly accurate up to 2000m with high reliability.
One of the novel products at Sofex is the NTW-20 anti-materiel rifle. Primarily designed for rapid-reaction, peace-keeping and special operations forces, the NTW-20 provides "cannon capability in a rifle configuration".
Military users have thus far avoided such 20mm rifles, mainly because acceptable recoil and accuracy could not be found in a light weapon. Recoil in the NTW-20, however, is comparable to that of a hunting rifle, and the weapon is man-portable (two backpacks, with an overall weight of approximately 27kg.)
The NTW-20 has been designed for maximum ease of use and low maintenance. It can be quickly assembled or disassembled in the field without tools.
Its versality is also enhanced by the ability to fire the 14,5x114 and 12,7mm rounds. This reconfiguration can be done in less than a minute without tools. The NTW-20 is unique in that it is currently the only anti-materiel weapon in existence in this caliber with a multi-caliber option.
For rapid-response forces, South Africa has also developed long range mortars of which the 81mm version matches the capabilities of competing 120mm systems. Ranging at 6 000 meters, Denel's M6 in 60mm long range equals conventional 81mm systems. As a light mortar system, the M6 is carried on foot, or can be used in motorized combat or air-mobile roles.
Machine guns, notably the General Purpose SS-77 in 7.62x51mm and the light Mini-SS in 5.56mm, are also on show, along with a full range of quality ammunition (from 5.56mm and 9mm to medium caliber 35mm). The SS-77, once described by "Soldier of Fortune's Fighting Firearms" magazine as "arguably the finest GPMG ever manufactured" weighs less than 10 kg, allowing even comfortable shooting from the shoulder.
As a mounted machine gun, the SS-77 integrates with ease on vehicles or helicopter mounts (often in combination with the potent 20mm GA-1 cannon on a single mount). Without modifying the weapon, a spade grip or remote firing device can be fitted, simply by removing the quick-release foldable butt.
"Fighting Firearms" magazine wrote about the SS-77's conversion into a 5.56mm light machine gun, as follows: "What happens when you convert the world's best GPMG into a 5.56mm SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon)? You could conceivably end up with the world's best SAW."
The conversion led to the Mini-SS in 5.56x45mm, weighing around 8 kg, an ideal modern "fire and maneuver" weapon for close-in combat where targets would usually be at ranges of no more than 100 meters. Heavily equipped rapid forces also find it more convenient to carry lighter ammunition (200 rounds of linked 5.56mm ammunition weighs only around 3.6kg). As the experts say: "(Denel's) Mini-SS 5.56 SAW is now poised to give (competing light machine guns) some extremely uncomfortable competition."
The new 40mm AGL (automatic grenade launcher) shown at Sofex on a tripod mount, has been integrated in several platforms, including IFV turrets. Its short overall design (844mm) makes it highly suitable for helicopter, vehicle and other mounted applications. Firing the devastating 40mm HV ammunition, the AGL has an effective range of 1500m, with a maximum range of 2200m.
"Most of what we're showing here at Sofex - be it subsystems such as the Arachnida weapons management system already operational in the Middle East or the Kenis high resolution imaging Infrared camera or vehicle turrets packing a powerful punch - provides quick reaction and mobile forces with reliable equipment that will work under all conditions, in any environment," says Max Sisulu. "Importantly, there are no strings attached when we collaborate with our friends in this region. These systems are indigenously South African, and we're proud to work with our industry counterparts here to make these systems part of your military forces."