14 August 2014 by Guy Martin - defenceWeb
Ammunition manufacturer Pretoria Metal Pressings (PMP) is diversifying its product range, manufacturing Russian calibre ammunition and investing in research and development, such as polymer bullet casings and less than lethal ammunition.
PMP recently concluded an agreement with US company PolyCase on the manufacture of heavy metal free ammunition and polymer cartridge cases, which are lighter and much cheaper than conventional brass. PMP is also conducting its own research into these areas and aims to double its research and development efforts in the next two years as it keeps abreast of technology and increases its portfolio and turnover.
Some of the research and development projects PMP is involved with deal with programmable fuses, heavy metal-free primary explosives and incorporating 3D printing in components and manufacturing processes.
PMP is collaborating with a number of institutions on research and development, such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Armscor and various local universities. PMP is looking at a number of new areas, including less than lethal ammunition, and is exploring collaboration with various small arms and ammunition manufacturers such as Brugger and Thomet (B&T) on less than lethal ammunition production (Denel is marketing some of B&T’s small arms). Phaladi Petje, CEO of PMP, said that less than lethal ammunition was needed for the local security clusters in South Africa.
Petje noted that the 2012 Defence Review calls for the support of the South African National Defence Force and the consolidation of sovereign capabilities within South Africa. As a result, the company is trying to be sure it can localise some technologies that are critical to the defence force.
Part of the process of expanding the product portfolio and finding new markets involves being competitive and for this reason PMP is embarking on a massive machinery improvement programme worth R400 million over the next five years. This will see new machinery bought and older machinery upgraded and improved. The plant renewal process has begun, with some systems set to come on line in the next two to three years.
PMP aims to double its turnover to more than R1 billion over the next five years as it increases its presence in Africa and meets the needs of the local market. As part of its strategy of expanding into Africa, PMP recently made the decision to begin manufacturing Russian 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition for the AK-47 series of assault rifles and their generics. At the moment the company is ready to produce and deliver this type of ammunition and has sent out quotations to interested customers. It is also nearly ready to deliver 23 mm Russian calibre cannon ammunition. Petje told defenceWeb that there are requirements for the 23 mm ammunition and PMP is in discussions with clients for a ‘substantial amount’. He added that PMP has been having successes supplying ammunition to some countries in Africa.
“We realised that to penetrate the African market, we need products to complement their systems,” Petje said of the decision to manufacture Russian calibre ammunition, as a significant number of African countries use Russian rather than Western ammunition and military equipment.
As a state-owned company, PMP exists primarily to serve South Africa’s needs first. “We exist to meet the SANDF’s requirements and have an obligation to add to the national development objectives,” Petje said. In addition to supplying the South African National Defence Force with various calibres of ammunition, PMP also disposes of old ammunition stocks and recovers the copper, which is used in other applications, but the company is exploring the possibility of ammunition disposal on the rest of the continent.
PMP is currently producing 30 x 173 mm ammunition for the 30 mm GI30 CamGun of the Badger infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) being built for the South African Army. The company is busy qualifying the 30 x 173 mm CamGun ammunition for the Bushmaster cannon, which is extremely popular throughout the world and therefore a good export prospect. Petje said PMP would hopefully soon be having a foreign sale involving this type of ammunition.
PMP also developed the 20 x 42 mm ammunition for the shoulder-fired Neopup weapon. The ammunition is ready for production.
Since Swartklip ceased manufacturing .22 Long ammunition some years ago, there has been no local production of this type of ammunition and this is something PMP may consider as there is lots of demand. “It is in our thoughts,” Petje said, noting that the company receives many requests for quotes for such ammunition.
Some 40-55% of local manufacture is exported but in a good year Petje said PMP can export up to 60%. This year he expects the company to export 55-60% of its turnover. For the first time in many years PMP has a good order book – normally at this time of year he said the company has around 55% order coverage but at the moment it is sitting on 100%. “Next year is exciting,” Petje said, in terms of both orders and partnerships, with a ‘significant’ order pipeline.
One third of PMP’s turnover goes towards non-military business, such as chemicals for the mining industry, blasting fuses for mines and brass strip for industry. As PMP increases its turnover, it is expecting to sell mining drill bits outside South Africa, which is currently its main market for drill bits.
PMP makes ejection seat cartridges under license from Martin Baker and supports the ejection seats of the Hawk Lead-In Fighter-Trainer and Gripen fighter jet of the South African Air Force. The company also supplies different power cartridges e.g. fire extinguisher cartridges, bomb release cartridges, etc. for some international clients.