BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE — South African arms manufacturer Denel Dynamics says it is working toward producing a family of surface-to-air and air-to-air defense missiles amid a larger push to expand collaboration with nations in South America, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere in Africa.
Denel says its new missile technology system, called Marlin, should lead to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) for armies and navies and air-to-air missiles (AAMs) for air forces.
Denel, which is wholly owned by the South African government, specifically seeks collaborations in South America, China, Russia, Nigeria and the Middle East, where a joint venture weapons development program is underway with a company based in the United Arab Emirates.
The Marlin development program is under contract from the South African Defence Department and intends, through collaboration with state-owned arms industries in Brazil, to produce a world-class weapon that should be ready for use by the participating nations’ defense forces in four years, the company said.
Denel Dynamics CEO Jan Wessels said the Marlin program forms the core of the company’s technology demonstrator program, which aims to build on the recent development of high-precision, short-range missiles such as the A-Darter, R-Darter and Umkhonto missile families.
Wessels said Denel Dynamics, which also produces UAVs, is seeking a joint venture with a “friendly country” to help finance programs and share the risks in developing the new missile technology system into a full-scale, world-class program.
An assessment of South Africa’s recent history of collaborative defense relations shows that Brazil, already a partner in the joint development of the A-Darter air defense missile system, is a favorite for nomination as a partner in developing the new missile technology system.
Besides Brazil, Denel in 2008 was reported to be working with China in developing the T-Darter missile system. In the UAE, Denel is collaborating with Tawazun Dynamics in developing and improving precision-guided munitions such as the Al Tariq.
Also, two months ago, Russian Helicopters opened its first Africawide maintenance, repair and overhaul center for Mi-8/17 and the Kamov family of helicopters at Denel Dynamics’ industrial complex.
The service center is a joint initiative that allows Denel to be the sole continental service center for Russian Helicopters.
Wessels said there is a huge scope for new weapons development programs in collaboration with other arms industries in the developing world.
“As seen with the A-Darter program [with Brazil], this type of initiative can sustain and grow industry,” he said. “Competitive, indigenous guided-missile design and development capability serve a number of strategic objectives for both South Africa and other advanced developing nations.
“Locally developed defense products translate into improved technological capability for both countries and create an independent defense capability that is of strategic importance,” Wessels said. “With that comes skills growth and industry job opportunities.”
The A-Darter program with Brazil is in the qualification phase and is scheduled for completion in 2014.
Meanwhile, Denel and UAE company Tawazun Dynamics have announced that they have successfully tested a new version of the Al Tariq precision-guided munition, which both companies said executed a “difficult mission test” during a flight evaluation program.
Tawazun’s Al-Tariq program manager, Coenie Loock, said the weapon, which was tested against a laser-designated target, scored a direct hit with the “miss distance” narrowed to less than one meter.
He said the Al Tariq was launched off the track of the target and was programmed to enter the target area from a different direction during the terminal phase of the test, a maneuver Loock said the weapon successfully executed.
“This implies the missile had to perform a ‘dog-leg’ maneuver and the flight path had to be calculated dynamically ‘on the fly,’ ” he said.
According to the Al Tariq website, the missile is a family of “strap-on” bomb kit systems and can be used on US-standard MK81, MK82 and MK83 bombs.
Before the latest upgrade, the standard versions of the Al Tariq had a range of 40 kilometers, while the long-range versions had a range of 100 kilometers.
Denel Dynamics said the accuracy of the new version of the munition is more refined as it operates independently of the weapon range.