South Africa Ordering Umkhonto Mk.2 Air Defense MissilesMay 10, 2011 13:51 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
In mid-April, South Africa’s DefenceWeb reported an R 49.2 million ($7.3 million) in contracts to begin resupplying its MEKO-derived Valour Class frigates with Umkhonto Mk.2 short range air defense missiles, perform Umkhonto Mk.2 testing, and support existing South African missile stocks.
Umkhonto Mk.1 missiles are currently in service on South Africa’s new frigates, and the South African Army’s Project Protector uses Umkhonto as a land-based SAM system. They are not its only customers…
Each South African warship is fitted with a 16-cell vertical launch system for Denel’s Umkhonto missiles [PDF], which use radar cues and datalink guidance to approach their targets, but home in using infrared.
The Mk.2 version produced under these recent South African contracts had been developed for Finland’s use, aboard its Hamina Class missile boats and Hameenmaa Class minelayers. Compared to the Mk.1s, Umkhonto Mk2 missiles have a longer range (15km vs. 12km), and better seeker-head algorithms to distinguish targets from background clutter.
Umkhonto has also been selected by Sweden to equip its Visby Class stealth corvettes.
Umkhonto’s range and attack mode places it in an interesting category, between shoulder-fired missiles like the MBDA Mistral or Saab’s RBS-70, and medium range naval options like MBDA’s Aster-15 or Raytheon’s RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow. Other naval missiles in its category include include IAI’s Barak-1, Thales’ Crotale NG/Mk.3, Russia’s 3K95/SS-N-9, and the forthcoming Thales/MBDA CAMM/FLAADS-M. With the exception of CAMM/FLAADS-M, all are radar-guided.