SA firm wins Eurofighter contract

11 August 2006

South African aerostructures manufacturer Aerosud has been awarded a US$20-million (approximately R138-million) contract by BAE Systems to produce components for the Eurofighter Typhoon, one of the most advanced swing-role fighters in operational service today.

This contract, announced this week, is the latest BAE Systems order placed with Aerosud under a $100-million strategic partnership formed between the two companies in 2004.

Europe’s largest defence contract
Set to run for at least six-and-a-half years, the contract encompasses the manufacture of up to 3 500 detail parts and minor assemblies for the Typhoon, Europe’s largest defence contract.

Developed by leading aerospace companies Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems, EADS in Germany and EADS in Spain, the Typhoon will provide a cornerstone of Nato’s defence capability for the next 30 years. It has recently gone into service in four European air forces, and boasts the largest confirmed production contract order book of any “next generation” fighter.

The Typhoon’s four partner countries – Germany, Italy, the UK and Spain – plan to take delivery of 620 aircraft altogether, with an additional order for 18 units signed with Austria.

Transatlantic aerospace company BAE Systems is a supplier of Hawk and Gripen fighter and trainer aircraft to the South African Air Force under SA’s multi-billion rand arms procurement programme.

BAE Systems MD Mike O’Callaghan said in a statement on Monday that his company’s partnership with Aerosud went beyond its “offset” obligations arising from SA’s Hawk and Gripen procurements, “acting as a catalyst for growth in South Africa’s aerospace industry”.

Aerospace industry on a roll
The Eurofighter contract is the latest in a string of successes for Aerosud and, more generally, for South Africa’s fledgling aerospace industry, which is attracting billions of rands of foreign work.

“Companies like Aerosud, Denel, Saab and Aerospace Monitoring Systems, among others, are securing orders to design and manufacture hi-tech parts for state-of-the-art civilian and military aircraft from international giants like Airbus, BAE Systems and Boeing,” Roger Makings wrote in the Sunday Times in February.

The impetus for the resurgence in aerospace work, according to Makings, comes mainly from the government’s decision to acquire eight A400M military transport aircraft from Airbus. SA is a risk-sharing partner in the Airbus A400M programme, with Denel and Aerosud the two lead local industry participants.

“In addition, work is flowing in from the ever-growing order book for civilian Airbus products like the A320 family and the giant A380 airliner,” Makings notes.

Besides its Airbus and BAE Systems contracts, Aerosud has contracts with Boeing, Augusta-Westlands and almost a dozen airlines together worth more than R4-billion and with a life expectancy of more than five years.

“Aerosud now has 15 renewable contracts of global origin, all blue chip with key original equipment manufacturers, and secured on a competitive tender basis,” Aerosud MD Paul Potgieter told the Sunday Times.

“These successes are forcing on us growth from 340 staff to more than 700 over the next two years, with factory floor space being more than doubled to around 16 000 square metres.”

The Typhoon order, Potgieter said this week, “supports our ambition to become established as a strong, reliable and credible supplier of niche services and products in an increasingly competitive global market.” reporter

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