South Africa Ordering Umkhonto Mk.2 Air Defense Missiles
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. Umkhonto Mk.1 equips the South African Navy, as well as Sweden’s Visby Class stealth corvettes. Compared to the Mk.1s, Umkhonto Mk.2 missiles have a longer range (15km vs. 12km), and better infrared seeker-head algorithms that help distinguish targets from background clutter.
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.