Late January saw the first real major project milestone in the production process of the SA Army’s new infantry fighting vehicle – the Badger. “We have reached the stage of Product Baseline One (PBL One),” an elated Stephan Burger, Denel Land Systems (DLS) chief executive, said.
This milestone comes on the back of extensive testing, including an especially arduous one, called “bush break”, when test drivers use the vehicle to break through dense bush, which would ordinarily be impenetrable to the man on foot.
Burger reports that the Badger, which underwent the test, one of 18 units currently at DLS in Lyttelton, Centurion, came through with flying colours.
“We have done everything possible to get to this stage of the project, where PBL One is a reality, and from now on it really is all systems go, both on the product and the various systems and sub-systems that go into it,” he said, adding other aspects of eventual operational use by the landward arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), such as training and maintenance, were also always part of the overall project management.
Ahead of the demanding bush break test, the vehicle also underwent extensive testing of the various weapon systems, including the 30mm Camgun and the mortar, to ensure standards are met.
He notes that 10,000 rounds were put through one 30mm Camgun barrel as part of testing and evaluation.
Burger admits time was lost while evaluations of all manner of systems, sub-systems, weapons and the myriad other components that go into an IFV, were undertaken.
“We don’t cut corners at Denel and wanted to be certain everything, down to the smallest part, was 100% correct,” Burger said, adding this also extended to suppliers and sub-contractors on the project. That means that the DLS operation, dedicated to the Badger, has been working on all the development aspects of the new IFV since the contract was awarded in 2007.
“It is the single largest project ever handled by Denel and we want to make it work.”
DLS will provide five Badger variants to the army – the section unit, equipped with the 30mm Camgun, the mortar equipped unit, a unit fitted with missiles and a fire support and control unit. An ambulance Badger, for the SA Military Health Services (SAMHS), is also part of the overall contract that will eventually see 242 Badgers, in nine different variants, delivered to the SANDF.
As a full Level Five project, Hoefyster (the codename assigned by Armscor to the acquisition) is completely modular. It has, to date, seen systems and product development, including the Camgun, the only one of its type in the world, and the long range mortar system, another South African first, being a back loading and water-cooled weapon.
“There are no more challenges on this project,” he said, adding it has now become “a process”. He expects no surprises, because of the all the “homework” done in the initial stages, and is confident the Army will have its new IFV as stipulated, over a 10 year period, with the final delivery expected at the end of 2022.
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