Umkhonto (missile)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Umkhonto IR and Umkhonto R
Type Surface-to-air missile
Place of origin South Africa
Service history
Used by South Africa, Finland
Production history
Manufacturer Denel Dynamics
Weight 130 kg (290 lb)[1]
Length 3.32 m (10.9 ft)[1]
Diameter 180 mm (7.1 in)[1]
Warhead 23 kg (51 lb)[1]

Wingspan 500 mm (20 in)[1]
12 km (7.5 mi)(Umkhonto-IR Block 1) [1]
15 km (9.3 mi) (Umkhonto-IR Block 2) 20 km (12 mi)(Umkhonto-IR Block 3)
30 km (19 mi) (Umkhonto-ER)
60 km (37 mi)(Umkhonto-R)[2]
Flight altitude km (5.0 mi)(Umkhonto-IR)
12 km (7.5 mi) (Umkhonto-ER)
15 km (9.3 mi)(Umkhonto-R)
Speed Approx. Mach 2[1]
All-aspect infra-red, command update fire and forget
Naval Vertical launch system, Land truck mounted VLS system.

The Umkhonto (Zulu: spear) is a South African family of modern short to medium range, all-weather capable vertical launch (VLS) surface-to-air missiles (SAM) manufactured by Denel Dynamics (formerly known as Kentron). The missile and associated subsystems are supplied as a missile group for easy integration into naval combat suites or ground-based air defence systems.

Umkhonto has been designed to counter a wide variety of air-borne threats, such as: multiple combat aircraft (fixed-wing or helicopter), anti-ship missiles, anti-radiation missiles, UAVs and drones as well as supersonic cruise missiles. When coupled with a modern air-defence system and multi-function surveillance track and guidance radars, Umkhonto enables the capability to simultaneously engage multiple targets during saturation attacks.

Umkhonto is available in 3 variants a short range infrared homing (Umkhonto-IR), a medium range infrared homing (Umkhonto-ER) and a beyond visual range radar homing version (Umkhonto-R).


Development of the system began in 1993. Ground-based system tests completed in July 2005. The tests included using Denel Dynamics Skua subsonic target drones equipped with telemetry sensors. Test flights flew different trajectory profiles, including low-flying, walking and exercising collision course evasive action.[clarification needed]

Vertical-launch Umkhonto IR Missile being launched from South African Valour Class Frigate
Vertical-launch Umkhonto IR Missile being launched from South African Valour Class Frigate

The first successful launch from a ship was carried out on board the South Africa Navy Valour-class frigate SAS Amatola on the 23 November 2005. The missile was launch at a Denel Skua subsonic target drone near Cape Agulhas. Test launches were repeated a week later. Instead of a warhead, missiles were equipped with telemetry data transmission units. According to the telemetry, both tests were assessed as hits.


Umkhonto-IR Block1[edit]

Designed for all-round defence against simultaneous air attacks from multiple targets, the Umkhonto-IR missile is the first vertically launched infrared-homing surface-to-air missile, also the first IR-homing missile to use lock-on-after-launch. Upon launch, the missile flies to a lock-on point, following on-board inertial navigation. The missile then activates its two-colour IR-seeker (variant of U-Darter AAM's seeker) and locks on. Target updates are received via data link, enabling the missile to counter evasive manoeuvres by the target.

The Umkhonto has a set of tail-mounted, aerodynamic control fins, as well as thrust vectoring vanes in the motor nozzle (similar to Denel's A-Darter AAM), allowing for 40 g maneuvering. The system's 3-D fire-control radar enables simultaneous engagement of eight targets for the naval version. The missile uses a low-smoke propellant to avoid detection. In July 2005 it was successfully tested in various scenarios against a Denel made Skua drones.

The sealed container has a cylindrical pad shape. During start-reactive gases are reflected from the bottom of the container and go straight up between the walls of the container and the body of the rocket. After starting the container used to recharge removed and replaced with a loaded container. Reloading the launcher is made either on the basis of, or in a calm sea using an auxiliary vessel. High reliability is achieved through the built-in self-test hardware that provides the minimum cost of maintenance staff.

The system consists of modules starting with missiles in launch canisters, control panel, system controller (control computer and control system interface shooting), the startup sequence controllers (one for every four missiles), transmitter remote control, antenna station and the cooling system of the infrared sensor before starting.

Umkhonto-IR Block 2[edit]

This variant of the IR Umkhonto was recently developed for the Finnish Navy. It has a more advanced seeker-head algorithm for differentiating between the target and background clutter often found in and around the Baltic archipelago. Because of the improvement in the seeker head, the newer version has a more efficient flight path, allowing for an increase in range of 3 km (1.9 mi); a new maximum range of 15 km (9.3 mi). Its current flight ceiling is 8 km (5.0 mi).

Denel Dynamics has stated its intention to end production of the Mk1 and continue with the Mk2 version of the missile, as a part of the missile's overall growth path.

Umkhonto-IR-Block 3[edit]

Umkhonto ground based air defence system

The Block 3 variant of the IR Umkhonto was test fired in October 2013. During the demonstration, three missiles successfully destroyed low-cost aerial target systems (LOCATS – provided by the South African Army), two at 15 km range and one at 20 km. Its current flight ceiling is 8 km (5.0 mi). The targets were launched from the Denel Overberg Test Range and flew out to sea before turning inshore on an elliptical track. The successful ground-based firing tests proved that the range of the Umkhonto has now been extended to 20 km while the physical dimensions of the missile remain unchanged. The test was also part of the development of a mobile ground-based system for the South African Army.[3]

Denel Dynamics has stated its intention to eventually make the Block 3 version of missile as the standard SHORAD variant, as a part of the missile's overall growth path.

Umkhonto ground based 8-cell module

Umkhonto-IR-ER & Umkhonto-CLOS[edit]

Denel Dynamics is currently developing a longer range Umkhonto-IR-ER variant with a range exceeding 20 km (12 mi) with a larger motor that extends the range to over 30 km (19 mi), and also has designed a Umkhonto-CLOS (command-to-line-of-sight) version that could prove attractive in the African Region.

Umkhonto R and Umkhonto IR and Umkhonto CLOS


Further extended range versions (Umkhonto-R) are in development. They will feature a rocket booster and Radar seekers.[4][5]

The radar-guided version's range is extended to over 60 km (37 mi) and has a higher operational ceiling of over 15,000 m (49,000 ft). It is also 65 kg (143 lb) heavier and 98 cm (39 in) longer than the Umkhonto-IR variant. Denel Dynamics is currently in negotiations with the Brazilian Navy for joint development of the missile.

Umkhonto R

Current users[edit]

 South Africa
Umkhonto naval based 8-cell module

Future users[edit]

  • Algerian National Navy: The Umkhonto has been selected by Algeria for use on its Meko A-200 Frigates.32x VLS for Denel Umkhonto-IR surface to air missileswill equip the two MEKO 200 frigates.[3][6][7] The Algerian Navy ordered two Meko A-200 frigates from Germany, which are to be equipped with Umkhonto-IR Block 2 missiles. These ships are the same type as the South African Navy's Valour class frigates.[8]

Potential sales[edit]


Failed bids[edit]

  • Swedish Navy: The Swedish government has expressed interest in the Umkhonto-IR Block 2 system for five Visby class corvettes for at total cost of about 1 bn SEK.[10] Due to budgetary constraints a decision was taken in 2008 to delete the SAM requirement.
  • Indonesian Navy: The Indonesian government were interested in the Umkhonto-IR Block 2 system for the SIGMA class Corvette.The MICA vertical launch air defence missile was chosen instead.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



External links[edit]