The World Defence Show, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 4 to 8 February 2024, was a platform for several South African defence companies to display their latest products, services, and capabilities in the fields of missile technology, air defence systems, precision guided munitions, artillery systems, and unmanned aerial vehicle systems.
Among the companies that participated in the show were Denel, Milkor, Hensoldt SA, and OTT Technologies.
Denel, the largest defence and technology company in South Africa, announced in a press statement that it “will showcase several global-leading products” at the show, which attracts the world’s top aerospace and defence manufacturers and is attended by decision-makers, industry analysts, and the media from across the globe.
Mike Kgobe, interim Group CEO of Denel, said that the show was “an opportunity for Denel to demonstrate that we still design, manufacture and deliver high-technology products that are comparable and better than what is produced in the rest of the world.” He added that it was “important for Denel to have a strong presence in the fast-growing markets in the Middle East,” following a successful technology demonstration held at Alkantpan in the Northern Cape, which was attended by representatives from ten countries.
Some of the products that Denel exhibited at the show included:
- The Umkhonto-IR surface-to-air missile, which has been deployed by several armed forces globally, including the SA Navy. The infrared-guided missile has a range of 20 000m and can reach speeds of more than twice the speed of sound – Mach 2.2. It can be launched from vessels or from a ground-based launcher and provides all-round defence against incoming missiles and aircraft. The Umkhonto-Extended infra-Red missile adds further range, speed, and operational ceiling, which improves its performance and ability to defend forces on the ground.
- The Ingwe Surface Target Missile, which has been integrated onto helicopters and infantry fighting vehicles or can be launched from its own platform. Using laser beam riding guidance, it can reach and neutralise targets more than 5km away.
- The Seeker 400 unmanned aerial system, which has been upgraded through the years to ensure technology relevance. The Seeker 400 can stay up in the air for up to 16 hours at a cruising speed of 150km/h and a range of 250km. It has autonomous take-off and landing capabilities and carries multiple sensor payloads, which accumulate real-time images and high-definition data to stations on the ground.
- The G6 self-propelled howitzer, which has set the standard for long-distance artillery over more than three decades. The G6 has a 52 calibre barrel and a state-of-the-art design that has a high rate of fire of seven rounds per minute with 38 rounds and an accurate firing up to a range of 57 km.
- The T5-52 truck-mounted gun, which is mounted on a commercially off the shelf vehicle platform. The top carriage is mounted on a high-mobility truck chassis with a purpose-designed interface and outriggers. The weapon system has excellent tactical and road strategic mobility with a range of 600 km without refuelling at speeds of up to 85 km/h and is suitable for forces that require artillery that combines mobility with long-distance capabilities and accuracy.
- Denel’s prowess in the design and manufacturing of long-range mortars and anti-material rifles will also be demonstrated to decision-makers and analysts. The NTW-20 can engage targets up to 1 750m away and is extremely effective in a counter-sniping role and against mortar and rocket launcher positions. The DM-82 is a long-range mortar which can be used during night and day and reach targets about 7km away with pinpoint accuracy.
Kgobe says a newly restructured Denet is seeking new markets for its tried and tested products and systems. “We want to build on our reputation for leading-edge products and systems and the World Defence Show is a unique opportunity to gain a foothold in new markets.”
Other South African defence companies that attended the show were Milkor, which specialises in grenade launchers, unmanned systems, and cyber security; Hensoldt SA, which offers radar, optronics, and electronic warfare solutions; and OTT Technologies, which manufactures armoured and mine-protected vehicles. These companies also showcased their products and services to potential customers and partners in the Middle East and beyond.
Milkor, a South African defence company that specialises in grenade launchers, unmanned systems, and cyber security, has once again showcased its cutting-edge aerospace and defence technology to the world, displaying its Milkor 380 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) alongside a tactical ground control station at the World Defence Show (WDS) in Saudi Arabia.
The company, which has a subsidiary in Saudi Arabia, Milkor Industries LLC, is committed to delivering robust and quality solutions to meet the Kingdom’s growing defence needs in alignment with Vision2030, according to Marthinus de Beer, CEO of Milkor Industries LLC. He said that the company’s presence at WDS illustrated its advanced capabilities and signified that South Africa’s defence technology continued to evolve and thrive.
Milkor recently received a Saudi Arabia manufacturing permit that allows the company to assemble and produce aircraft in the country, in the event an acquisition goes ahead. The company is in talks with Saudi Arabian officials regarding UAV procurement.
At WDS 2024, the Milkor 380 on display featured a varied weapons load, including an Al Tariq-X guided bomb and Desert Sting 25 glide weapons. The UAV has a payload capacity of up to 400 kg under the fuselage and 230 kg under each wing. Powered by a turbocharged piston engine, the aircraft has a maximum endurance of 35 hours and a range of more than 2,000 km. The Milkor 380 is the largest UAV to be produced in Africa.
Armand Bodenstein, Business Development Director of Milkor, underscored the significance of the growing trade and cooperation between South Africa and Saudi Arabia, particularly in the defence industry. He remarked that the evolving partnership between the two nations held immense potential for the defence sector, as the mutual support and exchange of technologies not only enhanced capabilities but also generated a substantial number of job opportunities, contributing to the long-term economic growth of both countries.
During the WDS, Milkor also revealed the latest addition to its naval portfolio, the 16 metre long Milkor Commander patrol craft, designed for maritime security, coast guard, and law enforcement duties. The Commander features a hydrodynamic hull design optimised for the unique requirements of coastal security and law enforcement operations.
The vessel will be built for high speed (45 knots) and long range (500 nautical miles at 35 knots) operations. It is designed to swiftly reach mission areas and ensure a safe return.
The vessel offers ample deck space and impressive payload capacity, making it adaptable to a diverse range of roles, according to Milkor. The aft deck can support 1.5 tons and the roof 400 kg, while there is capacity for up to ten personnel. The vessel’s protection level reaches up to Ballistic level B6, thanks to bulletproof glass and spall lining addons, ensuring enhanced safety for the crew.
James Cottrell, Head of Marine Projects at Milkor UAE, stated that the vessel had an effective role in ensuring absolute maritime security with its rapid deployment capability and minimal crew requirement. He said that the company had a commitment to reliability, safety, and mission effectiveness, asserting that the Milkor Commander reflected these core values.
The development of the vessel was spurred on by the rise in piracy, human trafficking, and smuggling of contraband along the coastlines of Africa and the Middle East. The vessel will be able to carry out maritime patrols, high-speed interceptions, infrastructure monitoring, inspection, surveillance, and search and rescue missions, amongst others.
“The need for high-speed naval response capabilities have increasingly become a focus point for many countries. Milkor has taken notice of these challenges and continued to focus their development of naval defence solutions towards combating these immediate threats. With a rapid growing capability in developing and supporting naval vessels, Milkor boasts an in-house capacity to develop and manufacture vessels up to 30 metres in length,” the company explained.
In addition to the new Commander, Milkor offers its 12 metre long Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC), which uses a hydrofoil supported catamaran design to reach high cruising speeds. The IPC has the ability to switch between manned and unmanned operation. The vessel can be armed with two lightweight torpedoes and a remote weapon station.
Milkor also showcased it’s 4×4 armoured personnel carrier at the World Defense Show.
OTT Technologies and ADG Mobility
OTT Technologies and ADG Mobility, part of the OTT Group of South Africa, have announced a partnership with Rakaa Security and Military Supplies of Saudi Arabia at the World Defence Show (WDS) 2024, held in Riyadh from 4 to 8 February.
The partnership is based on a commitment to develop innovative and practical solutions to align with and enable the Kingdom’s Saudi 2030 vision, which aims to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil. Rakaa Security and Military Supplies, which provides strategic advice and a roadmap to help its new partners in the Saudi market, specialises in the delivery of security and military equipment to all Saudi government agencies, including various branches of the armed forces and police.
The OTT Group, which was formed in 2021 by the merger of OTT Technologies, ADG Mobility, and LMT Products, is the largest 100% privately-owned military vehicle development and manufacturing entity in Southern Africa. With almost 70 years of collective military vehicle development and global support experience, the group offers not only innovative design and development capabilities, but also battle-proven products already in service in the international market, notably in the Middle East region.
Under this partnership, the South African group envisages transfer of technology and growth of its Saudi partner. This will be achieved through new ‘clean sheet’ programme developments to specific end-user requirements, as well as service life extension plans such as upgrades and the localisation of upgrade services and support for legacy equipment. The partnership will also supply, support, and locally manufacture some of the existing tried-and-tested vehicles of the OTT Group.
Dr Stefan Nell, group managing director of the OTT Group, said that each one of the constituent companies brings significant designs and experience, and that they have complementary skill sets that include engineering, simulation, prototype development, and advanced automotive and destructive testing. He also said that they have capabilities in industrialisation and manufacturing, as well as an after-market support network coupled with their advanced manufacturing reputation.
The OTT Group has a strong customer base with hundreds of specialised and mine-protected vehicles operational in conflict areas around the world. The group said that the vehicles on offer are purpose-designed and built with the highest levels of protection as certified in international blast and ballistic tests. The vehicles also meet the exceptional high mobility challenges in the typical Middle East region where sustained 50 degree C ambient conditions occur. Driveline and cooling systems have been fully signed off, above and beyond these requirements, by the respective engine and transmission OEMS. OTT Technologies is one of only three companies worldwide with a UN long-term agreement (LTA) for MRAP vehicles. Moreover, some of the company’s latest vehicles have received accolades for having performed exceptionally well during gruelling UAE summer trials.
ADG Mobility has “formidable” design, development and testing capabilities, coupled with many significant global partnerships. Its product development experience ranges from multiple 4×4, 6×6 and numerous third-party 8×8 solutions. Some of the products that the company has developed include the Agrab 8×8 mortar carrier, the Mbombe 4×4 armoured personnel carrier, the Mbombe 6×6 infantry combat vehicle, and the Mbombe 8×8 armoured fighting vehicle.
Hensoldt South Africa
At the World Defence Show, Hensoldt South Africa is showcasing a wide range of its products to the region. The company provides a range of sensor solutions in the Middle East, ranging from large-scale solutions such as TEWS spectrum dominance and SkyManager spectrum management solutions, to more tactical solutions such as the GMJ9 force protection jammer and the SAS2000 for signals intelligence. Hensoldt South Africa is also offering its ASTUS unmanned aerial vehicle and Argos gimbal for aerial surveillance, Quadome 3D surface and surveillance radar, IFF, and datalink solutions.
The company also displayed a wide range of its products and services to the regional and international market, highlighting its expertise and innovation in the field of spectrum dominance, electro-optics, and surveillance.
Spectrum dominance and management solutions
Hensoldt South Africa offers a variety of solutions for spectrum dominance and management, enabling its customers to monitor, analyse, and exploit the electromagnetic spectrum in complex and contested environments. These solutions include:
- TEWS: A tactical electronic warfare system that provides situational awareness, electronic attack, and self-protection capabilities for land, air, and naval platforms. TEWS can detect, identify, locate, and jam hostile emitters, as well as communicate with friendly forces and command and control centres.
- SkyManager: A spectrum management system that optimises the use of the radio frequency spectrum for military and civil applications. SkyManager can allocate, coordinate, and deconflict frequencies, as well as detect and mitigate interference and jamming.
- GMJ9: A force protection jammer that protects personnel and vehicles from radio-controlled improvised explosive devices (RCIEDs). GMJ9 can jam a wide range of frequencies and modulations, as well as adapt to the changing threat environment.
- SAS2000: A signals intelligence system that collects, processes, and analyses signals of interest from various sources. SAS2000 can provide intelligence on the activities, capabilities, and intentions of adversaries, as well as support electronic warfare operations.
Electro-optical and surveillance solutions
Hensoldt South Africa also offers a range of electro-optical and surveillance solutions for land, air, and maritime domains. These solutions include:
- ASTUS: An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions over long distances and durations. ASTUS can carry various payloads, such as electro-optical, infrared, radar, and communication systems, and can operate autonomously or remotely.
- Argos: A gimbal that can be mounted on various platforms, such as UAVs, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft, to provide high-resolution imagery and video for ISR and targeting purposes. Argos can accommodate multiple sensors, such as daylight, infrared, and laser, and can stabilise and track targets in motion.
- Quadome: A 3D surface and surveillance radar that can detect and track small and low-flying targets, such as drones, rockets, and mortars. Quadome can provide accurate and reliable information on the range, azimuth, and elevation of targets, as well as classify and identify them.
- IFF: An identification friend or foe (IFF) system that can distinguish between friendly and hostile forces in the air and on the ground. IFF can prevent friendly fire incidents, enhance situational awareness, and facilitate coordination and cooperation among allies.
- Datalink: A datalink system that can transmit and receive data, voice, and video between various platforms and nodes. Datalink can support secure and reliable communication, command and control, and information sharing among different users and systems.
Bushbaby 100: The latest addition to the electro-optical portfolio
At WDS 2024, Hensoldt South Africa announced the latest addition to its electro-optical portfolio: the Bushbaby 100. The Bushbaby 100 is an advanced electro-optical system for land-based surveillance, with medium-range multi-sensor surveillance capabilities for a range of applications in the defence, security, and civil sectors.
The Bushbaby 100 is a compact, rugged, medium-range multi-sensor system for stabilised surveillance and target geo-location, Hensoldt South Africa said. “The modern defence and security landscape has shown us that a solution like this is the ideal choice – an advanced, yet flexible solution that can be easily deployed on a range of platforms for agile use,” said Chris Haines, Head of Sales of Hensoldt’s Optronics business in South Africa.
Designed for day and night observation applications, the system offers a field-swappable sensor-module for various applications. In standard configuration it provides a video feed from a 4K electro-optical sensor along with a compact MWIR (medium wavelength infrared) sensor and optional laser rangefinder. The system has a continuous 360-degree azimuth and -45° to +95° elevation range.
The onboard real-time video processor provides image enhancement of all sensors, image fusion of daylight and infrared cameras into a single video stream, image stabilisation, scene steering and target tracking.
The Bushbaby 100 is aimed at a variety of industries and organisations, including security and policing agencies, border control authorities, mining companies, military forces and commercial vehicle operators. It can be used in fixed or mobile installations, such as armoured vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles, patrol vehicles and commercial vehicles.
The first iteration of the Bushbaby was revealed in 2020. The system is non-ITAR, like the majority of Hensoldt South Africa’s products. It complements the company’s other surveillance capabilities, including radar and electro-optical sensors. Hensoldt South Africa’s combined radar and electro-optical surveillance system is, for example, protecting nearly two thousand rhinos in the world’s largest rhino conservancy.
Regional presence and partnerships
Hensoldt South Africa has a strong presence and reputation in the Middle East, where it has been providing sensor solutions for over 30 years. The company has established regional sales and marketing offices in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as local partnerships and collaborations with various entities.
The company recently opened its new offices in Stellenbosch, South Africa, which will serve as the hub of its spectrum management operations.
“Hensoldt South Africa’s expertise in the design, manufacturing and maintenance of defence and security solutions has earned the trust of military and commercial authorities in the Middle East,” said Rynier van der Watt, Managing Director of Hensoldt SA.
“While exporting its solutions to over 45 countries globally, the Middle East holds strategic importance for Hensoldt SA,” the company said. “At WDS 2024, collaboration agreements with INTRA Defence Technologies, SCOPA Military Industries and STIRA Strategic Systems solidify Hensoldt SA’s role in developing next-generation electro-optic systems and spectrum dominance solutions for the defence, security and civilian market in Saudi Arabia.”
Hensoldt South Africa is a subsidiary of Hensoldt, a global pioneer of technology and innovation in the field of defence and security electronics. Hensoldt South Africa employs over 700 people across four locations in South Africa and is a leader in the design, development, and production of sensor solutions for defence and security applications. The company’s portfolio includes solutions for spectrum dominance and management, electro-optics, radar, identification, and datalink.
The World Defence Show, which was held for the second time in 2024, brought together some 600 defence and security exhibitors and attracted more than 65 000 visitors. The show aims to provide a platform for the global defence industry to exchange ideas, innovations, and solutions, as well as to foster cooperation and collaboration among the stakeholders. The show also featured live demonstrations, seminars, workshops, and networking events. The next show is scheduled to take place in 2026.