Acknowledgement of achievements in the South African defence industry (SADI) are few and far between so the pat on the back from the latest Cabinet meeting for private sector company Milkor earns a sustained round of applause.
The post-Cabinet meeting statement, delivered yesterday (Monday, 6 November) by Minister in The Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, congratulates Centurion-headquartered Milkor “on their successful launch of the Milkor 380 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which places South Africa among the countries that continue to make strides in drone technology”.
The statement further notes the Milkor 380 “is the largest drone built in Africa and it will be used by the defence industry for combat, border control, conservation efforts including to combat poaching”.
Milkor put the large UAV – it has an 18.6 metre wingspan and maximum take-off weight of 1 300kg – aloft for its maiden flight on 19 September. The Milkor 380 was unveiled some five years ago with successful taxi testing earlier this year.
The September maiden flight was hailed as “a significant” achievement for 42-year-old Milkor and the wider SADI by marketing and communication director Daniel du Plessis.
Flight trials are set to continue for the rest of this year and into the first quarter of next year.
Specifically designed for long endurance intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations, the Milkor 380 can carry a 210 kg external payload, including weapons and sensors. The UAV has previously been seen at defence exhibitions with Al Tariq X-series precision guided munitions, Halcon Desert Sting DS-16 guided bombs, FZ602 laser-guided rocket launchers, an L3-Harris gimbal, and Airborne Technologies’ self-contained aerial reconnaissance (SCAR) pod.
Keeping the Milkor 380 aloft for up to 35 hours is a 135 horsepower, four-stroke, four-cylinder turbocharged Rotax 915iS engine. The power plant gives an expected service ceiling of just on 10 000 metres, a 250 km/h maximum speed and 150km/h cruising speed.
Five UAVs are in production at the company’s Cape Town manufacturing facility and set for delivery next year, including for service in South Africa.