Sudanese state-owned group SAFAT Aviation showcased its local aircraft design and manufacture at the Africa Aerospace and Defense (AAD) exhibition at Waterkloof Airbase in Pretoria, South Africa.
The representative of SAFAT Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul (MRO), which is part of the Military Industry Corporation, Mohammed Abdelhalim, said that exhibitions like AAD were important to show their wares and that people were surprised that there was such products in Sudan.
Although the group’s light aircraft and helicopters are not flown by other countries, he said: “We can make good offers and provide training. Our goal is to be the number one aircraft manufacturer in Africa.
Abdelhalim said that although there has not been much interest in the aircraft from countries on the continent, they continue to market their product.
He said: “In the aviation industry, it takes a long time to have a good brand like Airbus, Boeing or Embraer. These companies have been in the industry for decades. But in our case, we support our air force, we support our local aviation academy. One day we hope that SAFAT can be something like Airbus or Boeing.
Telling the story of SAFAT’s aircraft development and production, he said: “Our experience in aircraft manufacturing began in 2004 – at that time we tried to do something unique in the hands Sudanese. There are many colleges in Sudan that teach aeronautical engineering. The government made the decision and then they built SAFAT as a pioneer in aircraft manufacturing in Sudan to bring in the engineers, train them in aircraft manufacturing.
“Our beginning was SAFAT 01 – a very small aircraft – only a single seater. After that came another period of training and cooperation with several companies around the world, then came SAFAT 02 – a helicopter”. This is in operation at Sudan, with some piloted by the 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 – entirely designed and manufactured in Sudan. It is in service with the Sudanese Air Force for training and is also used in academies for training.
Besides South Africa, very few countries on the continent have the capability to design, develop and manufacture military aircraft. The Paramount Group produced and sold the first military aircraft – the Mwari – made in South Africa since the 1980s.
The Military Industry Corporation was established 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 ammunition, firearms and artillery.
The SAFAT Group held a stand for the first time at AAD in 2016.