New Options: Denel & Tawazun’s Precision Weapons Partnership
August 18/15: South African firm Denel Dynamics will reportedly conduct flight testing of the company’s Marlin beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile later this year, as the firm looks to test technologies to integrate with the A-Darter missile, forming an advanced multi-role aerial weapon. With a guided flight test slated for next November, the missile is also intended to operate in a surface-to-air missile capability. The active radar missile has been ten years in the making , with the missile’s developmental seeker capable of tracking multiple airborne targets simultaneously.
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 has already chalked up 1 success in that area. Now, the question is how far they can take any export opportunities…
The remaining barrier to Tawazun’s partnership 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.
Tawazun Dynamics’ GPS-guided Al-Tariq (originally: Umbani) glide bomb kit for Mk80 family bombs, with pop-out wings and propulsion bolt-ons that can boost its range to 100 km/ 60 miles, is the 1st example of the weapons the partnership will offer. Tawazun Dynamics is also offering dual-guidance GPS/IIR options, making Al-Tariq a direct competitor to Sagem’s AASM, Boeing’s JDAM-ER, and Raytheon’s AGM-154 JSOW. It 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 opens 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. South Africa flies JAS-39C/D Gripens, but has been slow to integrate new weapons like the Umbani GPS glide bomb kit due to lack of funds. Instead, South Africa integrated Umbani onto its Hawk Mk.120 advanced trainer and light attack jets, which could become a viable export platform depending on the partnership’s terms. 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, and the only weapon listed so far by Tawazun Dynamics. 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.
Contracts & Key Events
August 18/15: South African firm Denel Dynamics will reportedly conduct flight testing of the company’s Marlin beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile later this year, as the firm looks to test technologies to integrate with the A-Darter missile, forming an advanced multi-role aerial weapon. With a guided flight test slated for next November, the missile is also intended to operate in a surface-to-air missile capability. The active radar missile has been ten years in the making, with the missile’s developmental seeker capable of tracking multiple airborne targets simultaneously.
Nov 20/13: Al-Tariq. The UAE places a ZAR 5 billion ($492.5 million) contract for Al-Tariq weapons with Tawazun Dynamics, as it moves to equip its Mirage fleet. A buy of that size says that another shoe will drop; the UAE won’t leave that many assets stranded. F-16E/F integration is an obvious option, or they could wait for integration with the Mirage fleet’s Rafale, Typhoon, or Super Hornet successor. Either way, the Al-Tariq seems destined to add a 3rd launch platform beyond the Mirage 2000-9 and Hawk Mk.120+. Sources: Denel, Nov 20/13 release | defenceWeb, “Denel and Tawazun win R5 billion missile contract from UAE”.
Nov 17/13: Al-Tariq. Tawazun Dynamics announces that their “flagship product,” the Al-Tariq GPS-guided glide bomb kit, has been integrated with the UAE’s Mirage 2000-9s, under an agreement with Dassault Aviation.
It will be interesting to see whether they can extend that to earlier Mirage 2000 and Mirage 2000-5 platforms operated by other countries; Denel says that “expectations are that the bomb systems will in future also be fitted onto other fighter jets.” Sources: Tawazun, Nov 17/13 release.
Mirage 200-9 integration
May 15/13: Fun fact from Tawazun. This should make things lots of fun for American defense firms who wish to cooperate with them:
“Tawazun, a UAE based strategic investment company focused on specialised manufacturing and industry, has selected Huawei Enterprise as its partner in creating a secure network environment to support the growth of UAE’s industrial manufacturing and technology capabilities in the defence sector.
Tawazun’s mission is to help drive the development of the UAE’s defence sector as a strategic national mandate.
Huawei was awarded the project to deploy a smart campus networking solution based on IPv6 in its integrated manufacturing zone known as Tawazun Industrial Park (TIP).”
- Tawazun Dynamics – Al Tariq
- South Africa’s Engineering News (Aug 29/11) – Denel Dynamics markets high-tech missile offering to SANDF and friendly countries