As far as I know, only a handful of nations and companies are capable of producing turbofan engines for combat jets:

  1. GE, P&W, Honeywell (USA)
  2. Safran (France)
  3. Roles Royce (UK)
  4. United Engine Corp (Russia)
  5. Shenyang, Guizhou (China)
  6. Motor-Sich, Ivchenko-Progress (Ukraine)
  7. IHI (Japan)

The South African aerospace company Denel once designed and manufactured Atlas Cheetah jet fighters.

Did South Africa ever demonstrate the capability of designing and manufacturing turbofan engines for combat jets?

By "capability" I mean: If the above seven countries do not transfer technology, can South Africa build their own Turbofan engine? Does South Africa have enough human resources and money to invest to accomplish this?

  • $\begingroup$ Possible related: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/49737/… $\endgroup$
    – Daniel K
    Aug 25, 2021 at 20:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How do you define and determine "capability"? And why do you presume that they are NOT capable? (if they could make the Atlas Cheetah) There is a difference between having design and manufacturing capability, and choosing to actually exercise it. (and to be commercially successful) For example: I am very capable of making a much tastier hamburger than McDonalds, (really, most people are...) but that doesn't mean that I would choose to start a business and compete for their customers. Or that I might make money at it. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2021 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ you missed at the very least Volvo in Sweden who also build engines for jet fighters. Then there is HAL in India who build such engines under license from other companies. So they have the capability to build them at least, and can probably design them as well if they wanted to with some lead time. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Aug 26, 2021 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ SA managed to build and test a nuke. Turbine engines ........ a little more complicated and may have been completely manufactured for use in the Rooivalk attack helicopter but I must admit I was working on the armament targeting systems at the time, not primary power. Since SA was under some strong sanctions at the time I suspect that a few turbines were 'acquired' under the radar. Least said, soonest mended. officially the power source was a Turbomeca Makila $\endgroup$
    – nimbusgb
    Aug 26, 2021 at 11:13
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    $\begingroup$ I think any answer is going to depend on politics. What the apartheid-era South Africa could do, and perhaps more importantly, would do, is not necessarily what they could and would do today. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Aug 27, 2021 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


South Africa is quite capable of designing and manufacturing turbojet and turbofan engines from scratch. They have been doing so since the 1990's and the only reason they stopped was due to the upheaval after the end of the apartheid regime. They restarted the work in 2014, so who knows how far they've come since then.


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