Air Defense: Umkhonto Evolves


May 16, 2011: South African firm Denel has introduced a new version of its Umkhonto ship anti-aircraft missile system. The Mk.2 version has a more powerful target seeking computer, that enables it to avoid homing on background clutter. This also produces a more efficient flight path, extending the maximum range to 15 kilometers. Umkhonto missiles weigh 130 kg (290 pounds) each, are stored in four or eight cell launchers, and launched straight up. The Mk 1 version had a range of 12 kilometers, and could hit aircraft as high as 10 kilometers (31,000 feet). The missile uses the ship's radar to get near the target, then uses a heat seeker to home in.

The Mk 2 version was developed for Finland, the sole export customer. South Africa is now equipping its own ships with the Mk2. Brazil and Sweden are planning on buying Umkhonto. The Brazilians want the missile for its aircraft carrier, and want a radar guided version. This model, the Umkhonto R, will have a range of 25 kilometers and a ceiling of 12 kilometers (39,000 feet). It is also heavier (195 kg/429 pounds) and longer (from 3.32 meters/10.9 feet to 4.3 meters/13.3 feet).



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