In his recent visit to South Africa, to attend the Africa Aerospace & Defence (AAD) exhibition, Pakistan’s Minister of Defence Production (MoDP) Rana Tanveer Hussain met with South Africa’s Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (Associated Press of Pakistan).
While confirming her attendance at the Fifth Session of the Pakistan-South Africa Joint Commission, a high-level intergovernmental meeting due to take place in November, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula announced that South Africa will also be establishing a Defence Attaché office in Islamabad by the end of the year to help accelerate defence matters of mutual interest to fruition.
Mr Hussain also offered South Africa access to Pakistan’s military training facilities. In addition, the MoDP also met with the CEOs of South Africa’s defence giants, Denel Group and Paramount Group.
Notes, Comments & Analysis:
Although Pakistan and South Africa had engaged in a number of transactions through the 1990s and early 2000s, cooperation had dropped considerably towards the close of the last decade. However, with South Africa’s decision to post a defence attaché to Pakistan, it appears that efforts are underway to restore at least some of the momentum that had been lost.
Denel Group will likely be interested in pushing its munitions technology to Pakistan. For example, the JF-17 Block-III is slotted to carry a high off-boresight (HOBS) air-to-air missile (AAM), and the Denel Dynamics A-Darter has been listed as a possible option by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officials on several occasions. The Umkhonto IR surface-to-air missile (SAM) is apparently of interest to the Pakistan Navy.
However, it should be noted that Denel Group also engages in other development and production work as well, such as vehicles, armour and artillery. In fact, Denel Vehicle Systems’ light armoured vehicles have started to see some traction in the market in recent years. For example, in November 2015 the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had ordered the RG-35 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle from Denel with transfer-of-technology and commercial offset benefits. Tawazun’s NIMR Automotives is producing the vehicles for the UAE as well as prospective third-party buyers.
In light of Pakistan’s vast armoured vehicle market, which comprises of active service needs (in the Tribal Areas) as well as peacetime paramilitary and law-enforcement requirements, it could expect Denel to make a play in this area. Paramount Group, South Africa’s private sector defence giant, would also look to make in-roads in the same armoured vehicle market. The company has also begun producing an 8×8 armoured fighting vehicle named the Mbombe 8.
Denel Group and Paramount Group are known for providing relatively attractive transfer-of-technology and commercial offset packages to prospective customers. Cooperation with these companies could help the Pakistan MoDP in its goal of making the country’s publicly-owned defence industry entities less reliant on government support. Investments (that are not necessarily tied to armed forces requirements) and commercial offsets may be a method on the table for that objective.
For the South African defence industry, Pakistan could potentially provide a valuable source of development funding and quantitative scale. For example, the A-Darter’s development only took place in earnest thanks to developmental funding from Brazil. However, with Brazil unable to commit to its own production and order of A-Darter missiles, the South Africa’s comparatively smaller A-Darter order will have to bear the research and development load. In other words, each missile will be on the relatively pricier side.
An order from Pakistan – which would need to support up to 150 JF-17s, if not more – would distribute the R&D overhead across a large number of units. In other words, the missile unit price would drop. If manufacturing costs could be reduced further, i.e. through sourcing cheaper subcomponents and labour, the A-Darter could become competitive on the market. This would enable Denel Dynamics to more freely offer it against competing solutions.