Sudan’s state-owned SAFAT Aviation Group has showcased its local aircraft design and manufacture at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) expo at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, South Africa.
Representative of SAFAT Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul (MRO), which is a part of the Military Industry Corporation, Mohammed Abdelhalim, said exhibitions like AAD were important to show off their wares and people had been surprised that there were such products in Sudan.
Although the group’s light aircraft and helicopter are not being flown by other countries, he said: “We can make good offers and provide training. Our goal is to be number one in African aircraft manufacturing.”
Abdelhalim said although there had not been a lot of interest in the aircraft from countries on the continent, they were continuing to market their product.
He said: “In the aviation industry it takes a lot of time to have a good brand like Airbus, Boeing or Embraer. These companies have been working in the industry for decades. But in our case, we support our air force, we support our local aviation academy. Some day we hope that SAFAT can be something like Airbus or Boeing.”
Outlining the history of the development and production of SAFAT’s aircraft, he said: “Our experience in aircraft manufacturing started in 2004 – at that time we tried to do something unique by Sudanese hands. There are a lot of colleges in Sudan which teach aircraft engineering. The government took the decision and then they built SAFAT as a pioneer in aircraft manufacturing in Sudan to bring in the engineers, train them to manufacture aircraft.”
“Our beginning was SAFAT 01 – a very small aircraft – only a one-seater. After that came a further time of training and cooperation with several companies worldwide, then came SAFAT 02 – a helicopter”. This is in operation in Sudan, with some flown by police and by the army as a trainer.
The helicopter was manufactured in a joint venture with its Ukrainian designer Aerokopter.
Then the project went further with SAFAT 03 – which is designed and manufactured completely in Sudan. It is in service with the Sudanese Air Force for training and is also used at academies for training.
Besides South Africa, very few countries on the continent have the ability to design, develop and manufacture military aircraft. The Paramount Group has produced and sold the first military aircraft – the Mwari – made in South Africa since the 1980s.
The Military Industry Corporation was set up in 1993 to ensure self-sufficiency in the face of international sanctions. It is responsible for the production of a wide range of defense equipment, such as munitions, firearms and artillery.
The SAFAT Group had a stand for the first time at AAD in 2016.