New Options: Denel & Tawazun’s Precision Weapons PartnershipSep 27, 2012 18:07 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
In September 2012, Denel Dynamics signed an important deal with the UAE’s Tawazun Holding. By creating a joint firm near Abu Dhabi to manufacture and develop guided weapons, the new Tawazun Dynamics partnership will be able to offer GPS-guided glide bombs and more to customers throughout the Middle East, and around the world. It’s another significant crack in a set of barriers that have given western countries a great deal of leverage with countries who buy their fighters.
Those cracks are appearing all around the world. New entrants like Brazil, Turkey, South Korea, and South Africa are introducing advanced systems for the global market. As alternatives proliferate, the environment that allowed America and European countries to use the continued supply of advanced weapons as a political bargaining chip is eroding quickly. Tawazun Dynamics has one barrier left to conquer, but their partnership almost guarantees that it will be neutralized.
The remaining barrier is simple: the weapons it creates have to be integrated with specific fighters. In the UAE’s case, that means its French Mirage 2000-9s, and its F-16E/F Block 60s. South Africa flies JAS-39C/D Gripens, but has been slow to integrate new weapons due to lack of funds.
Tawazun Dynamics’ GPS-guided Al-Tariq glide bomb kit for Mk80 family bombs, with pop-out wings and propulsion bolt-ons that can boost its range to 200 km, has already been touted as an example of the weapons the partnership will offer. It’s a direct competitor to Sagem’s AASM and Boeing’s JDAM-ER, and could even be seen as an alternative to products like Lockheed Martin’s JASSM.
If they were facing a different customer, France and the USA might choose to deny permission for integration with their fighters, using weapon export laws and other obstacles in order to stifle incipient competition for their domestic firms, and preserve that aspect of their national influence. The UAE is not that customer.
France is in negotiations with the UAE for a major buy of its Rafale fighters, which could provide the platform’s desperately-needed export endorsement.
The USA has a significant strategic relationship with the UAE, and does a multi-billion dollar weapons business of its own that includes the possibility of F/A-18 Super Hornet family sales and more F-16E/Fs. Neither country can afford to jeopardize those investments and partnerships, even if the request diminishes their global influence in the defense trade. Denel has chosen its partner well.
The ownership split is 51% Tawazun, 49% Denel Dynamics. Denel had actually considered divesting its subsidiary entirely, but this move appears to put that option to rest.
The ability to sell to other Mirage 2000 customers would open up interesting markets in Brazil, Qatar, and India, among others. If the UAE chooses the Rafale, one would expect integration on that platform as well. The F-16E/F is unique enough that the UAE may have to work to include earlier F-16C/D Block 40+ planes, but if they did, it would open up a huge opportunity around the world.
The exact suite of weapons that will be offered through the partnership will be made clear at a later date. The Umbani-derived “Al-Tariq” bomb kits to convert 500 – 2,000 pound bombs into extended range precision glide weapons is the only near-certainty. Beyond that, Denel can offer:
- The Mokopa short-range, semi-active laser guided strike missile, with a tandem warhead for better armor penetration. It can be carried on helicopters, and has been tested from land and ships. Denel Dynamics’ catalog includes fixed-wing aircraft as a possibility, but is mum on tests or integration. The -60C temperatures at high altitudes are a formidable problem for conventional anti-tank missiles, so it remains to be seen how broad that “fixed wing” capability really is. If the UAE funded testing and improvements, it could create a competitor to MBDA’s Brimstone missile, which proved very effective in Libya.
- The 1,200 kg Raptor-II [PDF] rocket-boosted glide weapon, which can be guided by TV & GPS (with an IIR option) over its 130 km range. Integrated aircraft include older Mirage models, and the Russian SU-24 long-range strike aircraft.
- The A-Darter advanced short-range air to air missile, in development as a partnership with Brazil. The UAE is already working to field AIM-9X missiles for its F-16s, and fields MICA missiles on its Mirages, so it may not be interested.
- The Ingwe beam-riding laser-guided anti-tank missile, which can be used by soldiers or fired from helicopters; Iraq is already a customer, equipping its EC635 scout helicopters.
- The Umkhonto IR-guided short range naval anti-aircraft missile, which can also be deployed as a ground SAM.
- South Africa’s Engineering News (Aug 29/11) – Denel Dynamics markets high-tech missile offering to SANDF and friendly countries