The SA Army and the Special Forces have received the first of about 30 antitank guided missile launchers upgraded at a cost of R167.4 million as part of Project Kingfisher and are now in the process of introducing the regained capability into operational service.
The contract provided for the remanufacture of MILAN (Missile d’Infanterie Leger ANtichar – infantry light antitank missile) launchers placed in storage in 1996 to an “advanced digital technology” standard. The deal also included training, missiles and assorted maintenance equipment, spare parts and other materiel.
The SA Army contracted European missile maker MBDA in December 2006 to upgrade some of the Army’s MILAN launcher inventory to ADT (ADvanced Technology) standard and to provide new MILAN 3 missiles for the launchers.
SA acquired the second-generation semi-automatic command line-of sight (SACLOS) missiles in 1974 and the original missiles were deemed too old to safely use by the 1990s.
SA employed the MILAN in combat in southern Angola in the 1980s. Although details of its use remain sketchy, it is known to have been used by 32 Battalion and 5 Reconnaissance Regiment during Operation Modular in 1987.
MBDA says the SA Army formally accepted the missile at its German facility at Schrobenhausen in December 2007, a year after the contract was first inked.
There Army representatives checked and confirmed the functionality of an initial five units. In addition, the maintenance equipment, initial spares package and logistic and maintenance systems for product support were demonstrated and also received customer acceptance.
Work then proceeded briskly. MBDA and local BEE-empowered partner Fulcrum Defence Systems (FDS) delivered the first batch of rejuvenated MILAN ADT firing post to the SA Army on 16 February. The delivery also included MILAN 3 munitions and a training simulator.
Next followed troop trails at the SA Army’s Infantry School training institution in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape province. MBDA says that seeing SA is the launch customer of the Milan ADT firing post, the trials were also the first operational evaluation of the new, fully digitised mount.
The trials concluded with a live fire exercise during which ten rounds were fired – and ten hits recorded. Witnesses say the MILAN ADT firing post and its MILAN 3 missiles operated perfectly when engaging both stationary and mobile targets at various ranges.
“The troop trial confirms MILAN’s unique reliability. The extraordinary capabilities of the weapon system, which have already been successfully proven in numerous field operations, allow the engagement of a wide variety of targets, including not only tanks with state-of-the-art reactive armour, but also helicopters, bunkers, fortifications or command posts in shelters,” says Werner Kaltenegger, managing director of MBDA Deutschland with overall transnational responsibility for MILAN ADT-ER (Extended Range) within MBDA. ADT-ER is the combination of the ADT launcher and the MILAN 3 missile.
“The delivery of the new MILAN ADT firing post is an important contribution to the modernisation of South Africa’s armed forces. In MILAN ADT, South Africa is receiving a state-of-the-art and highly cost-efficient firing post. Thanks to its improved optics, integrated thermal imager and digitised localiser, MILAN ADT meets the requirements of today’s modern armed forces for a close combat weapon deployable in all conditions, day and night against a wide range of ground targets”, he adds.
FDS CEO André Wolmarans last year told ITWeb that he had also been contracted by MBDA to form a service hub for Africa. “They have done a total knowledge transfer to FDS regarding the firing posts. There are currently 1600 posts in use on the continent we can look at maintaining and upgrading. The possibility of upgrading firing posts for customers in the rest of the world is not excluded,” he adds. “A number of countries using the Milan lack a service centre and we are looking at filling that gap.”
MILAN is currently in use with 44 countries. To date some 360 000 MILAN guided missiles and approximately 10,000 firing posts have been sold.
Some 10 000 missiles have been fired in operations and out of a total of over 100 000 firings (which includes training rounds) MBDA says the hit rate has been a consistently high 95%.
Older generation weapons – without IT-enabled SACLOS guidance – typically boast a hit-rate below 30%.
Once operational, the MILAN will be allocated to the Infantry School for training purposes and to 4 and 5 Reconnaissance Regiments as well as 44 Parachute Regiment and the motorised infantry for operational use. SA Army doctrine provide for six of these weapons in the antitank platoon of the infantry battalion.