Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-03-02 Reporter: Sapa

Now SA Wants New Army Tanks



Business Day

Date 2004-03-02



Web Link


Armscor, the Department of Defence's (DOD) armaments acquisition agency, has given 12 local and international defence companies until February next year to tender for around 260 new infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) for the SA Army.

The confidential Request for Proposals (RfP), issued under the reference number MFT/2003/564, asks eight South African companies and four international defence contractors to put forward ideas and quotes for a new generation IFV to replace the Ratel-series in use with the Infantry Formation's regular and reserve mechanised battalions by February 25, 2005.

The Ratel, now in its Mark 3 incarnation, was developed and mass-produced in the early 1970s.

Several versions appeared, most notably a personnel carrier armed with a 20mm cannon, a command variant with a 12.7mm machine gun, a 81mm mortar carrier and 90mm cannon-armed armoured car version.

Despite repeated remanufacturing to newer specifications and continuous maintenance, many of the vehicle hulls have now reached the end of their useful lives.

As a result Armscor launched a project named Hoefyster to study its replacement.

Domestic companies asked to tender were state arms manufacturer Denel as well as private companies Land Mobility Technologies (LMT), Benoni-based Alvis OMC, IST Dynamics, Industrial and Automotive Design SA, the Mechanology Design Bureau (MDB), Advanced Technologies Engineering of Midrand, Grintron and Intertechnic.

The four overseas contractors approached were GIAT Industries of France, Mowag Motorwagenfabrik AG of Switzerland (part of the US General Dynamics group) and the pan-European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Company (EADS).

Initial media reports on Project Hoefyster speculated that Mowag's Piranha IV, was a shoo-in. Later reports indicated that four South African companies, including Alvis, LMT and MDB, had been funded by Armscor to design local prototypes. All were 8x8 designs and were meant to carry the Denel LCT-35 turret, fitted with a 35mm cannon.

Past indications from the DOD has been that the new IFV would only enter production after 2012 when payments for the current arms deal were scheduled to end. But some publications have of late speculated that production could start as soon as 2007.

Officials, who were expecting the project to attract criticism from the anti-arms lobby, were reluctant to speak about the project.

Armscor tender rules also prohibit contractors from speaking to the press. However, Sapa was told by defence officials and contractors who spoke under condition of anonymity that lessons learned by South Africans in Central Africa made it clear that peace support operations were fickle and that peacekeeping could easily become peace enforcement.

Lessons relearnt by the United Nations in Sierra Leone were that warring factions could often not be kept to their word and saw poorly armed and equipped peacekeepers as perfect targets for kidnapping - in order to extract concessions - or ready sources for equipment.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Business Day.