Procurement: April 19, 2004


The South African armed forces decided to buy the locally made Mokopa anti-tank missile to equip their armed helicopters. The Mokopa missile looks a lot like the American Hellfire missile, and that's probably no accident. While the rest of the world ended its arms embargo against South Africa in 1994, when democratic elections were held, the United States continued to refuse to sell weapons to South Africa. The reason was that the South African state owned arms manufacturer, Armscor, had been caught stealing American weapons technology and then selling it to anyone (including Saddam Hussein and China.) During the decades of arms embargo, South Africa heavily subsidized weapons manufacturers so that South Africa could make its own weapons. This worked, as South Africa even made its own nuclear weapons. The nuclear capability was destroyed by the government before the first free elections were held in 1994. But the other arms manufacturers continued to receive billions of dollars in government subsidies, and never managed to turn a profit by exporting weapons or military technology. But they tried, and picked up the habit of cutting lots of corners while they were doing it.

Armscor spent over a billion dollars developing a helicopter gunship (the Rooivalk) that was to compete against the American AH-64 Apache. But South Africa has been unable to get any export sales for their $20 million (each) gunship. Now they have a Hellfire missile clone on the market. China might be interested in this one. And South Africa will sell it to them. 


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