South Africans are behind many of the world’s innovations including weapons. Some are relics of the apartheid era.
South Africa’s achievements include becoming a nuclear power and building one of the world’s best attack helicopters, according to a report in MyBroadband.
But some of these achievements have their history in the apartheid era, when South Africa was justifiably paranoid about defending itself from an indefensible enemy — itself. This, during a time when the country was under a U.N.-sponsored anti-apartheid arms embargo from 1977 until apartheid ended in 1994.
In private, military professionals and analysts scoff at the idea that South Africa today could defend itself from any serious, determined, concerted attack — unlikely as that might be — according to a 2012 report in TheGuardian entitled “From bully boys to wimps: the decline of SA’s military.”
Ivor Ichikowitz is the founder and CEO of Paramount Group, a group of companies operating in the global defense, internal security and peacekeeping industries. Paramount was founded in South Africa in 1994, the year apartheid ended and South Africa became a democracy. It manufactures armored vehicles and military aircraft, and trains its clients on how to use them.
As you might expect, Ichikowitz said South Africa is producing top-notch military equipment and technologies, according to MyBroadband. The country can hold its own against the best the world has to offer, he said.
When you see the weapons listed below, South Africa’s military doesn’t look so wimpy.
You may remember the reports recently — who can forget? — of ageing white South Africans helping to bring Boko Haram’s six-year reign of terror to an end in Northern Nigeria.
Here are some of the military weapons and equipment developed or built in South Africa that they may have had at their disposal.
Sources: MyBroadband, TheGuardian, International Civil Aviation organization, SouthAfricanAirForce, EngineeringNews, Paramount, CSIR, SADF, NTI.org
The Denel Rooivalk is an attack helicopter which was developed by the Atlas Aircraft Corporation, a predecessor of Denel Aviation, and manufactured by Denel. Rooivalk is Afrikaans for “red kestrel.”
Denel is a South African state-owned aerospace and defense technology conglomerate established in 1991.
The Rooivalk project actually began in early 1984 during apartheid as a response to the the increasingly conventional nature of the South African Border War.
The Rooivalk has two staggered cockpits and two turbine engines, and the main and rotor blades can withstand hits from small arms fire.
The Rooivalk’s weapons platform can deliver a variety of hard-hitting projectiles against targets several kilometers away.
The South African Air Force ordered 12 Rooivalks. The first was officially handed over in 2011.
Sources: MyBroadband, Wiki
The NTW-20 is an anti-material weapon or large-caliber sniper rifle developed in the 1990s used to kill people and destroy things such as radar stations, petrol tankers, parked aircraft such as helicopters and planes, and command and control stations. It went into service in 1998.
It’s a portable weapon that can be carried by a sniper, and can also be mounted on light vehicles.
While it is not seen as a traditional sniper rifle, a version of this gun (Denel NTW-14.5) is credited with a 2,125-meter kill by a South African Special Forces sniper, according to MyBroadband.
Sources: MyBroadband, Wiki
The G5 towed howitzer is built by Denel and became operational in 1983. It proved reliable as a 155-millimeter long-range gun with an auxiliary power unit. The design was based on the Canadian GC-45 155mm gun highly modified to suit Southern African conditions.
Denel said feedback from military operations and intensive testing under all possible conditions suggest a gun that is practical and user-friendly.
Sources: MyBroadband, Wiki
The G6 is a 155mm self-propelled gun-howitzer developed by Denel. It is one of the most powerful self-propelled guns on a wheeled chassis and went into production in 1987. The G6 was deployed by expeditionary units of the South African Defense Force during the Angolan Civil War, which lasted from 1975 to 2002.
Denel has developed the new G6-52 which it says has made advances in all the capabilities critical to effective artillery.
Sources: MyBroadband, wiki
The important part of this weapon is the “U” which stands for unmanned, as in unmanned aircraft systems. One definition of UAS is this one from the International Civil Aviation organization: “(UAS is) a new component of the aviation system, one which ICAO, states and the aerospace industry are working to understand, define and ultimately integrate.”
Denel’s Seeker 400 UAS is a self-contained system with a large payload-carrying capability, high-definition video imagery, real-time data acquisition, transmission to remote receivers, and autonomous take-off and landing capabilities.
It operates at direct line-of-sight ranges of up to 250 kilometers from the base station and provides real-time day and night reconnaissance, target location and designation, and artillery fire support.
This type of weapon was first used by South Africa in Angola in 1987-1988 to provide reconnaissance and artillery weapons delivery guidance for the South African Defense Force during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, the last battle of the South African Border War, according to the SouthAfricanAirForce.
Sources: MyBroadband, SouthAfricanAirForce, wiki
The Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) is designed and developed by South Africa’s Paramount Group for a range of civilian and military tasks including light reconnaissance and counter-insurgency.
Paramount hopes the AHRLAC challenges Western manufacturers with its claims of multi-role applications, low cost, reduced need for maintenance support, and operational capabilities.
The aircraft made its first flight in July 2014, and its designers say it’s the first all South African manned aircraft design since the Rooivalk, according to EngineeringNews.
Sources: MyBroadband, EngineeringNews, wiki
Launched in 2010, the Mbombe may not look agile, but that’s how its makers, the Paramount Group, describe it — an agile infantry fighting vehicle offering protection, mobility, and fire-power. It is designed to provide protect against landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), side blasts, and rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attacks.
This is achieved, in part, by new technology that provides mine protection without resorting to the traditional V-shape design.
Paramount says the Mbombe’s first-ever flat-bottom hull is revolutionizing armoured vehicle design. The blast-protected hull protects against mines, reducing Mbombe’s silhouette to less than 2.4 meters (7.87 feet), which is beneficial in combat and against IED attacks. The vehicle has a high level of protection against kinetic energy and blast attacks, according to its makers.
Sources: MyBroadband, wiki, Paramount
To counter piracy, South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research or CSIR developed a davit system that deploys small boats from moving Navy vessels, allowing the South African Navy to act fast against pirates.
CSIR is a leading African organization for scientific and technology research, development and implementation. It was established in 1945 and is funded by the South African government, government contracts, the private sector and contracts from outside the country.
The davit system is removable and can be loaded onto any ship’s deck with a right container footprint. It has a wave-compensating hydraulic system mounted on a load vector-compensating base, which ensures that forces are evenly distributed into the deck.
The system also carries stored energy which means the reaction vessels can be deployed even if the ship cannot provide the required power.
Sources: MyBroadband, CSIR
During the 1970s and ’80s South Africa built many world-class military weapons, including the Cheetah fighter jet.
The Atlas Cheetah is a South African developed and manufactured fighter jet — essentially an upgrade of the Dassault Mirage III.
The Cheetah was developed out of a need for more advanced aircraft to get an edge over the ever-more sophisticated Soviet aircraft such as the MiG-23 being used against South Africa by Angolan and Cuban forces in the Border War of 1966 to 1989.
Three different Cheetah fighter jets were created – 16 dual-seat Cheetah D, 16 single-seat Cheetah E, and 38 single-seat Cheetah C.
The Cheetah E was retired in 1992 — in South Africa, that is — and the Cheetah C and Cheetah D were retired in 2008, replaced by the Saab Gripen. A few Cheetahs are still used for flight tests.
However 12 South African Cheetahs were sold to the Ecuadorian Air Force in 2011 for more than 550 million rand ($45.1 million USD by today’s exchange rates), according to a Guardian report.
Sources: MyBroadband, wiki, Guardian
During the 1970s South Africa was one of just a few countries that developed and built nuclear weapons.
According to the SADF, an article by Marcus Duvenhage reports that South Africa had six nuclear devices and was busy making a seventh when it abandoned its nuclear program.
While South Africa denied being a nuclear state during the apartheid years, former president FW de Klerk confirmed in March 1993 that South Africa had “embarked on the development of a limited nuclear deterrent.”
Since abandoning its nuclear weapons program, South Africa has become a champion of global nuclear nonproliferation and equal access to peaceful nuclear energy. However, its remaining dual-use nuclear capabilities have made it both a possible exporter of nuclear technology and know-how, and a target for state and non-state actors seeking nuclear materials, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, NTI.org.
Sources: MyBroadband, NTI.org, SADF