Africa is undergoing a massive transformation and last week the FINN team was at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) Show at Waterkloof, just outside Pretoria, taking a closer look at some of the initiatives underway and on display.
There were plenty of aeroplanes on display, new and old, large and small, and we caught up with the growing number of UAV manufacturers and other new platforms for the defence and the civil aviation sectors.
The show was opened by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who stressed the importance of defence and security to future economic growth, while recognising the need for partnerships.
That was good news for the UK’s High Commissioner, Nigel Casey, as his country is preparing for Brexit and seeking out new opportunities.
“As we leave the European Union next year, we are reinvesting and revitalising our relationships with traditional long-standing partners including here in the African continent, on the basis of a 21st century partnership. That’s very true in the defence space, which is why we’re here today,” Casey said.
Good news for South Africa too, as the country’s defence minister, Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula, told us about her vision for Africa’s defence future as she celebrated the announcement of the launch of black-owned and managed Paramount South Africa.
“Not only do we have a defence industry; we are in competition with well-developed countries, which can be a challenge at times. Yes, we have budget cuts, in our defence force for instance. But in spite of all that, there’s continued work being done in the area of defence,” she commented.
The Paramount Group dominated the news at the event with its multi-role AHRLAC platform, flying the production and prototype models into the show for the first time.
The first two production models of the militarised Mwari variant joined the very modern Industry 4.0 digitalised production line last week. The company also announced a partnership with Leonardo for a weaponised M346 trainer.
The value of training was shown on the eve of AAD. The pilot of a South African Airforce Oryx helicopter was praised after all passengers and crew escaped a catastrophic hard landing in a pre-show VIP display without injury, The aircraft was not so fortunate.
Unmanned aircraft are on the rise and Cape Town’s Tellumat announced its Astus surveillance platform is entering production.
Willem Malan, Tellumat Defence, said: “Our system is 80% locally produced [using our] own IP, so it’s owned and raised in South Africa, and therefore we believe that from a cost perspective, we are very competitive. The market is definitely showing interest – especially Africa, roundabout countries are already enquiring about our system.”
There has been a 50% increase in the number of business aircraft operating in Africa over the past 20 years and with a predicted growth of 69% in the number of ‘high net worth individuals’, it is perhaps no surprise that OEMs like Bombardier and Dassault were showing off some of their top aircraft. Dassault’s 8X made its debut at the show.
There was plenty of innovation on show too. One South African company, Pegasus Universal Aerospace, is well on the way to raising the $50 million it needs to bring its vertical take-off business aircraft to market – a market it sees replacing the helicopter in some key urban transport and bush roles.
The observation aircraft, Seeker, was on display, demonstrating the clear vision from the cockpit. Now, with an African base in Ghana, it could soon be playing a role in pipeline and power line inspections – and even anti-poaching missions
There are 19 countries in Africa where you can look to the skies to see the great workhorse, the C-130, but there aren’t that many places you can look to the skis. At AAD, we saw the LC-130H fitted with a new generation of eight bladed MP2000 propellers for polar operations, and it’s all set for ice or snow landings. Meanwhile, it’s big sister, the stretch C130J-30, was catching the most attention from the region’s Air Forces.