Land-based Umkhonto fired for the first time

07 October 2013
One of the first live-fire tests of the Umkhonto-IR that was carried out at the Overberg Test Range from 1-3 October. Source: Denel Dynamics

Denel Dynamics, the guided weapons division of South Africa's Denel, carried out the first live-fire tests of the land-based version of its Umkhonto naval surface-to-air missile (SAM) between 1 and 3 October.

The tests also saw an Umkhonto-IR destroy a target at 20 km for the first time, a feat achieved after recent modifications to the Block 2 variant, and the first use of Reutech Radar Systems' new RSR-320 dual-band, 3D radar to provide mid-course guidance for the missiles.

Observers from nine countries joined South African defence and military officials at Denel's Overberg Test Range for the shoot. All three war-shot missiles scored kills on Low-Cost Aerial Target Systems (LOCATS), two at 15 km range and one at 20 km.

The targets were launched from the range and flew out to sea before turning inshore on an elliptical track. They were engaged by the Umkhonto-IR missiles in their lock-on-after-launch mode, with the RSR-320 providing mid-course guidance to get the missiles within acquisition range of their infrared seekers.

The ground-based launcher is being developed by Denel Dynamics with an eye on the South African Army's GBADS Phase 2 project, as is the RSR-320 radar.

The Umkhonto Block 2 missiles were provided by the South African Navy (SAN) from its stocks, one being modified by Denel Dynamics to increase its range, effectively resulting in a Block 3 variant of the missile. The LOCATS were provided by the South African Army.

The RSR-320 radar has been developed from the 2D Thutlwa ESR 220 radar that is in service with the South African Army. It is optimised as a missile guidance radar that can designate multiple low-altitude targets with integrated electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) and identification friend-or-foe (IFF) capabilities, but has also demonstrated its utility as an air and marine surveillance radar.

The Umkhonto vertical-launch SAM system was developed by Denel Dynamics for the SAN's MEKO A200-class frigates and is in service in Block 1 and Block 2 versions.

The Block 2 differs from the Block 1 primarily in that it has a seeker that is better suited to look-down engagements in a cluttered littoral environment and a 15 km range (3 km further than the Block 1).

The Block 2 is also in service with the Finnish Navy's Hamina-class corvettes and Hämeenmaa-class mine layers and is reported to have been selected by the Algerian Navy for its new MEKO frigates.

The SAN has carried out multiple successful Umkhonto launches against LOCATS and Skua high-speed targets, and the Finnish Navy has scored kinetic kills against Banshee targets with at least three telemetry rounds.

The SAN has also demonstrated the Umkhonto in its alternate anti-ship role, which showed that pre-fragmented warheads would destroy most of a warship's sensor antennas.

Denel is working on developing extended-range (beyond 20 km) and radar-guided, all-weather versions of the Umkhonto.

The Umkhonto-IR is the land-based version of the Umkhonto naval SAM. (Denel Dynamics)The Umkhonto-IR is the land-based version of the Umkhonto naval SAM. (Denel Dynamics)

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