South Africans are behind many global innovations, including the world’s first heart transplant, the Kreepy Krauley, Pratley Putty, and Dolosse.
The country has also produced many internationally-renowned technology entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth, and Roelof Botha.
This continued innovation in South Africa is shown in the latest Innovation Prize for Africa award nominations.
This year the African Innovation Foundation received 925 applications from 41 countries for its IPA awards. Four of the ten IPA 2015 finalists were South African.
The big guns
Many of South Africa’s best innovations happened in the military space. The country’s achievements include building one of the world’s best attack helicopters and becoming a nuclear state.
Ivor Ichikowitz, founder and executive chairman of Paramount Group, said South Africa is producing top-class military equipment and technologies.
He said the country can hold its own against the best the world has to offer, and that it is an industry which shows what South Africa can do.
Here are some of the powerful military weapons and equipment which were developed or built in South Africa.
Rooivalk attack helicopter
The Denel Rooivalk is an attack helicopter which was developed by the Atlas Aircraft Corporation, a predecessor of Denel Aviation, and manufactured by Denel.
The Rooivalk sports two staggered cockpits and two turbine engines, and the main and rotor blades can withstand hits from small arms fire.
The Rooivalk’s weapons platform can deliver a variety of hard-hitting projectiles against targets several kilometers away.
The NTW-20 is an anti-material weapon, used to engage high-value targets such as radar stations, petrol tankers, static helicopters and planes, and command and control stations.
It serves as an accurate long-range portable weapon which can be carried by a sniper, and can also be mounted on light vehicles.
While it is not seen as a traditional sniper rifle, a version of this gun (Denel NTW-14.5) is credited with a 2,125m kill by a South African Special Forces sniper.
G5 towed howitzer
The G5 towed howitzer is built by Denel and is a proven, reliable, and accurate 155mm long-range gun with an auxiliary power unit.
Denel said continuous feedback to design engineers from military operations and intensive testing under all possible conditions has resulted in a gun that is “not only immensely practical, but also extremely reliable and user-friendly”.
G6 self-propelled gun-howitzer
The G6 is a 155mm self-propelled gun-howitzer developed by Denel. The G6 is a battle proven, highly mobile, fully protected, wheeled, self-propelled gun with a firing range of more than 50km.
Denel states that while the G6 continues to outgun competitive artillery systems, it has developed the new G6-52 which has advances in all the capabilities critical to effective artillery.
Seeker 400 UAS
The Seeker 400 UAS is a self-contained system which has a large payload carrying capability, high-definition video imagery, real-time data acquisition, transmission to remote receivers, and autonomous take-off and landing capabilities.
The Seeker 400 operates at direct line-of-sight ranges of up to 250 km from the base station and provides real-time day and night reconnaissance, target location and designation, and artillery fire support.
The Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC) is a South African-designed and developed aircraft, destined for a role in a wide range of civilian and military tasks.
Developed by Paramount Group, the AHRLAC hopes to challenge Western manufacturers with its multi-role applications, low cost, reduced requirement for maintenance support, and extensive operational capabilities.
The Mbombe is an agile infantry fighting vehicle offering protection, mobility, and fire-power. It is designed to provide protection against landmines, IEDs, side blasts, and RPG attacks.
This is achieved, in part, by new technology that provides mine protection without resorting to the traditional V-shape design.
The mine protected flat bottom hull reduces Mbombe’s silhouette to under 2.4 meters, which delivers benefits in combat and against IED attacks. The vehicle comes as standard with a high level of protection against kinetic energy and blast attacks.
Davit system by the CSIR
To counter piracy, the CSIR has developed a Davit system that deploys small boats from navy vessels in motion which enables the South African Navy to act quickly against pirates.
The Davit System is removable and can be loaded onto any ship’s deck with a suitable container footprint. It has a wave-compensating hydraulic system mounted on a load vector compensating base, which ensures that forces are evenly distributed into the deck.
The system also carries stored energy which means the reaction vessels can be deployed even if the ship cannot provide the required power.
Blast from the past
During the seventies and eighties South Africa built many world-class military weapons, including the Cheetah fighter and nuclear weapons.
Cheetah fighter jet
The Atlas Cheetah is a South African developed and manufactured fighter jet, which was essentially an upgrade of the Dassault Mirage III.
Three different Cheetah fighter jets were created – 16 dual-seat Cheetah D, 16 single-seat Cheetah E, and 38 single-seat Cheetah C.
The Cheetah Es were retired in 1992, and the Cheetah Cs and Cheetah Ds in April 2008 – replaced by the Saab Gripen.
During the seventies South Africa was one of only a few nations which developed and built nuclear weapons.
According to an article by Marcus Duvenhage, South Africa had six nuclear devices and was busy constructing a seventh before it abandoned its nuclear program.
While South Africa denied being a nuclear state during the apartheid years, former president FW de Klerk confirmed in March 1993 that South Africa had “embarked on the development of a limited nuclear deterrent”.