The Denel Dynamics Umbani precision guided munition (PGM) bomb kit optimised for the NATO Mk 82 gravity bomb may soon be tested from to the South African Air Force’s BAE Systems Hawk Mk120 lead-in fighter aircraft. This will also open opportunity for the weapon in the 17 other air forces that operate the light fighter, giving them a precision stand-off attack range of some 40km.
The Umbani (meaning “lightning”) has been long in coming. Denel Dynamics CE Jan Wessels says the development is still being funded by the SAAF as a technology project. Money for these have been scarce over the last decade. Initial flight tests were successfully conducted on the Denel Cheetah some years ago. “In the last year we’ve moved to a Aerosud-owned (Dassault) Mirage F1 test platform because of the non-availability of the Cheetah and the high cost of integration on the new Saab Gripen as test platform,” he says.
“The next series of tests will probably be on the Hawk, for us it is significant as it is another step towards the Hawk becoming a workhorse of the SAAF. We see a lot of opportunity to take our Umbani onto that product. … There are many potential export customers but all are looking to the SAAF to adopt it first.”
Wessels says their customer’s major requirement is in the PGM arena for bomb kits for the Mk 82 227kg (500lb) bombs. But Umbani can also be made to fit the 113kg (250lb) Mk 81 and 454kg (1000lb) Mk 83 bombs. “In two years’ time this could be a bread and butter product,” says Wessels. “Our bomb-kit design is an optimal trade-off between performance and affordability plus ease of use. We have matured the technology sufficiently to offer Umbani in its basic configuration to the market at stand-off range up to 40km and with great accuracy.”
Pic: A take from a Denel Dynamics marketing brochure showing an Umbani with a Saab Gripen. Air Force chief Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano has previously said the air service did not have the funds to integrate weapons, implicitly also the Umbani, onto the Gripen (the Denel A-Darter being an exception). It is understood the SAAF is acquiring a number of US Raytheon Paveway IV laser-guided bomb kits that are similar to the Denel weapon. Paveway is already integrated onto the Swedish platform.