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Company provides solutions to combat local industry decline

3, 2, 1 ATTACK! The local defence industry has been a significant global role player, with world-leading technologies in areas such as missiles, vehicles and artillery systems

RATTLE THE RATEL The Ratel Service Life Extension Program will add an additional 20 years to the Ratel vehicle

24th February 2023

By: Leah Shelene Asaram

Features Reporter

     

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Despite the current state of the South African defence industry not being what it was two decades ago, protected mobility specialists OTT Group of companies is providing solutions to not only save the industry but to also enable longevity.

The OTT Group, together with sister company OTT Solutions, launched the Ratel Service Life Extension Program at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Expo last year.  

This solution will add an additional 20 years to the Ratel vehicle, used by the South African defence force, by replacing end-of-life components, such as the engine, gearbox and gun control systems, with the latest technology, says OTT group MD Dr Stefan Nell.

In addition, several requests for information and/or requests for quotation were recently published by acquisition agency Armscor for the acquisition of new products and for the maintenance of existing capital equipment.

“This proves that there is still hope within the local defence industry [with] regard to medium- and long-term solutions.”

Yet, Nell explains that an insignificant number of orders were placed by Armscor for the Department of Defence in the past five years as opposed to the years preceding 2018 – therefore resulting in a steady decline for local markets.

Moreover, local defence companies doing business in the landward defence sphere have either closed, moved to different industries or amalgamated to form new groupings, such as the OTT Group.

Mobility solutions company LMT Products, formed in 1999; military armoured vehicle specialists ADG Mobility (ADGM), formed in 2016; together with OTT Technologies, which was formed in 1980, all amalgamated last year to form the OTT Group.

Nell says ADGM and LMT Products provide the OTT Group with design and development capabilities, as well as battle-proven products already in service at the OTT Group.

“An estimated 90% of the turnover of South African defence companies are from exports, thereby keeping the defence industry in business.”

He states that, the local defence industry was a major creator of jobs and export revenue; however, over the past few years this has ceased to be the case. Currently, the remaining companies in the local defence industry employ significantly fewer people.

Although South African engineers are regularly poached by foreign companies, owing to their skills and range of expertise, the local defence industry is surviving in an extremely competitive global market, and despite its challenges, says Nell.

Nell suggests that the remaining South African defence companies should cooperate on local projects to share scarce resources among the different groupings and save the industry.

Meanwhile, several products of OTT Group have successfully completed various formal trials in foreign countries, with potential orders to follow, says Nell.

The local defence industry has traditionally been a significant global role player, with world-leading technologies in areas such as missiles, vehicles and artillery systems.  

Pockets of excellence remain, which could lead to the development of a significant local defence industry should the funds be available to upgrade and/or replace the almost outdated equipment of the South African National Defence Force, states Nell.

Edited by Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features

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