South African guided weapons


South Africa’s defence industry has a world renowned reputation for producing guided weapons, from unpowered bombs to surface-to-air missiles. Weapons like the Mokopa, Umkhonto and Ingwe have been exported around the world. Not happy to rest on its laurels, the South African defence industry is working on new and improved weapons like the extended range Umkhonto and Marlin.

In the 1980s South Africa was working on developing intercontinental ballistic missiles among a host of other guided weapons, such as the Multi-Purpose Standoff Weapon (MUPSOW), Torgos long range missile and Guided Boosted Bomb, but many of these projects were cut during the defence budget reductions of the 1990s. Nevertheless, many projects made it through and these are providing weapons to both the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and export customers.


Drawing on experience with the Kentron V3A/B/C Kukri heat seeking missiles and V4/R-Darter radar guided air-to-air missile, Denel Dynamics in 2006 began development of the fifth generation short range infrared guided A-Darter air-to-air missile (AAM). Due to the complexity of the project, Brazil was taken on board as a partner, with the Brazilian Air Force managing development on its side. Some of the Brazilian companies participating in the A-Darter project include Avibras (rocket motors), Mectron (which makes missiles) and Opto Eletronica (seeker head).

Test firing, off a SAAF Saab Gripen, began in mid-2010. Armscor in March 2015 awarded Denel Dynamics a contract for A-Darter production over five years, to arm the South African Air Force’s Gripens and Hawk Mk 120s, replacing the Diehl IRIS-T, which was acquired as an interim weapon while the A-Darter was being developed. Denel is considering adding the weapon to the Rooivalk helicopter. Brazil recently ordered Gripen E/F fighters from Sweden and may equip these with the A-Darter. Denel Dynamics is the original equipment manufacturer of the missile, but production would take place in both countries on separate production lines. Denel hopes to export the missile to foreign air forces.

Instead of being controlled by forward mounted wings, the A-Darter is steered by thrust vectoring, giving it exceptional manoeuvrability and allowing it to perform manoeuvres up to 100 g, twice that of the V-3C, for example. Its rocket motor uses smokeless propellant, which results in a small launch flash and almost no smoke trail. The nearly three metre long, 93 kilogramme missile has a range of approximately 20 kilometres. Its two-colour seeker and decoy rejection software means it is highly resistant to jamming. It features a laser fuse for its warhead and multi-mode counter-countermeasures suite.

It can be designated onto a target by the launch aircraft’s radar; through the missile’s seeker head or by a helmet-mounted sight – the latter allows it to engage targets to the side and behind the launch aircraft. In addition, the A-Darter has lock-on after launch capability, allowing for the engagement of targets beyond infrared detection range.


Marlin is a 100 km range radar-guided air-to-air missile being developed by Denel Dynamics under an Armscor technology demonstrator contract, although there are also plans for it to be developed into an all-weather surface-to-air missile, particularly for naval use. Common subsystems will be used for the different variants of the weapon, with some components derived from the A-Darter and Denel’s Umkhonto.


Derived with assistance from the cancelled South African High Velocity missile programme, the Denel Dynamics Umkhonto (Spear) surface-to-air missile (SAM) was originally developed with a 12 km range but this was increased to 15 km and Denel has demonstrated it can reach out to 20 km, with a ceiling of 8 000 metres. It reaches speeds of around Mach 2.5. Denel Dynamics is currently working on a longer range version (60 km) as part of an integrated air defence system as well as radar guided and surface target versions. In 2013 Denel Dynamics for the first time fired the weapon from land – the system was originally developed for naval applications.

Once deployed, the 135 kg missile has a reaction time of 2.5 seconds and half-second intervals between missile launches. Umkhonto uses inertial navigation and mid-course guidance from the launch ship or from a land based radar and then switches to its dual-band thermal imaging seeker for a lock on after launch capability. The missile manoeuvres through tail-mounted control fins and thrust vectoring vanes in the motor nozzle.

Although it is primarily an anti-missile and anti-aircraft system, its 23 kg pre-fragmented warhead with an active proximity fuse makes it effective against surface targets like ships as well.

The vertically launched Umkhonto missile is installed aboard the SA Navy’s four Valour class frigates and is also in service with the Finnish navy aboard its Hamina fast attack craft and Hameenmaaa class minelayers and the Algerian Navy’s Meko A200 class frigates. It will be integrated into the South African Army’s Ground Based Air Defence System (GBADS).


After the Kentron ZT3 Swift anti-tank missile, Denel Dynamics developed the Ingwe (Leopard) laser beam-riding missile. This has a range of 250-5 000 metres. Denel says the laser beam system is virtually undetectable and highly resistant to countermeasures. It is available with tandem warhead HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) and MPP (Multi-Purpose Penetrator) warheads. In its anti-tank form it can penetrate up to 1 000 mm of armour, after a single layer of reactive armour. The MPP warhead is designed for deployment in modern asymmetrical warfare to target lightly-armoured vehicles, urban targets, bunkers and fortified positions.

The Ingwe is used by the South African Army on the tank destroyer version of the Ratel and has been selected for the new Badger infantry combat vehicle family. It is also in production for the Malaysian Army, where it will be used on the tank destroyer version of its new Pars-derived infantry combat vehicle.

Although it was originally designed for ground vehicles, the Ingwe can also be air launched and has been exported to several countries in this configuration. It is in service on upgraded Algerian Air Force Mi-25 Hind helicopters and apparently aboard Iraqi Airbus Helicopters EC635s. Paramount Advanced Technologies offers the missile as part of its FLASH helicopter weapons suite.

Denel Dynamics has developed a man-portable launcher (Ingwe Portable Launch System – IPLS) that allows the missile to be dismounted from a vehicle and fired from a tripod.


The Denel Dynamics Mokopa (Black Mamba) anti-tank missile was developed for the Rooivalk attack helicopter and although it can and has been fired off the aircraft, it is not in service with the South African Air Force due to a lack of funds. It was first air-launched in 1999 and qualified in 2011. It can also be ground launched.

The 50 kilogramme Mokopa has a range of 10 kilometres and homes on a laser pulse provided by the launcher or a separate designator. It can lock on to a target before or after launch and fly different trajectories depending on the target. The standard warhead is a tandem shaped charge explosive able to penetrate 1 350 mm of armour, but various warheads could be fitted, such as fragmentation, as well as various seekers such as millimetre wave radar or imaging infrared.


Based on the Mokopa and Ingwe, Denel Dynamics has produced the Impi-S missile, designed for light aircraft such as smaller helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles like the Seeker 400. The 15 kilogramme Impi-S is inertial/semi-active laser-guided and has a range of 6 kilometres.


Developed from the 60 kilometre range Kentron H-2 TV-guided guide bomb, Denel Dynamics produced the Raptor guided weapon, which was acquired by the South Africa Air Force. The subsequent Raptor II has several guidance options, such as GPS/INS for fire-and-forget attacks, or low-light TV or infrared, and the target can be changed in flight. As the weapon’s communications pod is mounted on the launch aircraft or on a second aircraft, the weapon can be controlled from up to 200 kilometres away.

The 1 200 kilogramme weapon is fitted with a 600 kilogramme penetration or fragmentation warhead and has a circular error probability of three metres. Rocket motors gives the weapon a range of 130+ kilometres. The Raptor II has been integrated on the Mirage III, Mirage F1, Mirage V, Cheetah and Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft.

In September 2014 Denel Dynamics for the first time showed off a model of the Raptor III. This has a range of 300 kilometres and features a cleaner aerodynamic profile.

Umbani/Al Tariq

In 2002 Denel Dynamics began development of the Umbani (Lightning) guided bomb kit, which can be fitted to Mk 81 (120 kg), Mk 82 (240 kg) or Mk 83 (450 kg) bombs. Several guidance options are available, including autopilot with GPS and INS guidance or terminal laser or imaging infrared guidance, which will give a circular error probability of three metres. The weapon can also be pre-programmed to engage targets from specific directions and at different dive angles, depending on the target.

Standard range is 40 kilometres but increases to 120 kilometres with a folding wing kit but the extended range version with a rocket motor has a range of over 200 kilometres. The system can be fitted with a proximity fuse for area targeting, using a pre-fragmented warhead. The Umbani is easily integrated onto aircraft as it uses a normal dumb bomb pylon to carry the weapon – it is wirelessly programmed from the cockpit.

Umbani has been dropped from Cheetah, Mirage F1 and Hawk jets and although funded by the SAAF, South Africa instead bought the Paveway guided bomb. However, the Umbani has been exported to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the Al Tariq. In November 2013 Tawazun Dynamics received a R5 billion contract from the UAE Air Force for Al Tariqs for its Mirage 2000-9 fighters. Tawazun Dynamics is a joint venture between the UAE’s Tawazun Holdings (51%) and Denel (49%). Its mandate is to manufacture, integrate and support precision-guided weapons to the UAE and international clients.