Jonathan Rosenthal/JOHANNESBURG

The South African Government may drop one or more of six major aviation and naval weapon purchase programmes from its R30 billion ($4.9 billion) arms procurement package, announced last October, because of fiscal constraints.

Defence ministry chief negotiator Jayendra Naidoo, who is heading talks with preferred suppliers, says the team has been forced to reconsider whether the government can afford to buy all six items on the shortlist. These include the Saab/British Aerospace Gripen, the BAe Hawk, the GKN Westland Lynx and the Agusta A109, German frigates and submarines.

"One of the options we have in considering the affordability is reducing the number of packages-We have not taken any decisions yet," says Naidoo.

Each package will be assessed for its impact on spending and its benefit to the economy from related industrial participation, as well as the needs of the defence force.

Naidoo refuses to be drawn on which programmes will be affected. Sources say the A109 light utility helicopter and Hawk lead-in fighter programmes are probably most secure, with the submarine programme most likely to be cut.

Bidders who are not preferred suppliers claim the race is still on and that the government has indicated that it may consider cheaper offers as an alternative to cutting programmes.

Source: Flight International