Military Wiki
Umkhonto-IR Missile
Type Surface-to-air missile
Place of origin South Africa
Service history
Used by South Africa, Finland
Production history
Manufacturer Denel Dynamics
Weight 130 kg (290 lb)[1]
Length 3.32 m (10.9 ft)[1]
Diameter 180 mm (7.1 in)[1]

Warhead 23 kg (51 lb)[1]

Wingspan 500 mm (20 in)[1]
Flight ceiling 8,000 m (26,000 ft)[1]
Speed Approx. Mach 2[1]
All-aspect infra-red, command update fire and forget
8-cell (naval version) or 4-cell truck mounted land version

Umkhonto (Zulu language: spear) is a South African, vertical launch (VLS) surface-to-air missile (SAM) manufactured by Denel Dynamics (formerly known as Kentron) available in infrared homing (Umkhonto-IR) and radar homing version (Umkhonto-R).


Umkhonto-IR Block1

Designed for all-round defence against simultaneous air attacks from multiple targets, the Umkhonto-IR missile is the first vertically launched infrared-homing surface-to-air missile, also the first IR-homing missile to use lock-on-after-launch. Upon launch, the missile flies to a lock-on point, following on-board inertial navigation. The missile then activates its two-colour IR-seeker (variant of U-Darter AAM's seeker) and locks on. Target updates are received via data link, enabling the missile to counter evasive manoeuvres by the target.

The Umkhonto has a set of tail-mounted, aerodynamic control fins, as well as thrust vectoring vanes in the motor nozzle (similar to Denel's A-Darter AAM), allowing for 40 g manoeuvring. The system's 3-D fire-control radar enables simultaneous engagement of eight targets for the naval version. The missile uses a low-smoke propellant to avoid detection. In July 2005 it was successfully tested in various scenarios against Denel-made Skua drones.

Extended range versions (Umkhonto-ER) are in development. They will feature a rocket booster and IR or Radar seekers.[2][3]

Umkhonto-IR Block2

This variant of the IR Umkhonto was recently developed for the Finnish Navy. It has a more advanced seeker-head algorithms for differentiating between the target and background clutter often found in and around the Baltic archipelago. Because of the improvement in the seeker head, the newer version has a more efficient flight path allowing for an increase in range of 3 km; a new maximum range of 15 km. It's current flight ceiling is 10 kilometers (31,000 feet).

Denel Dynamics has stated its intention to end production of the Mk1 and continue with Mk2 version of the missile, as a part of the missile's overall growth path.


The Extended Range variant of the IR Umkhonto and was test fired in October 2013. During the demonstration three missiles successfully destroyed low-cost aerial target systems (LOCATS – provided by the South African Army), two at 15 km range and one at 20 km. The targets were launched from the Denel Overberg Test Range and flew out to sea before turning inshore on an elliptical track. The successful ground-based firing tests proved that the range of the Umkhonto has now been extended to 20 km while the physical dimensions of the missile remain unchanged. The test was also part of the development of a mobile ground-based system for the South African Army.[4]


The radar-homing version's range is extended to 25 km (16 mi) and has a higher operational ceiling 12,000 m (39,000 ft). It is also 65 kg (143 lb) heavier and 98 cm (39 in) longer than the Umkhonto-IR version. Denel Dynamics is currently in negotiations with the Brazilian Navy for joint development of the missile.

Other developments

Denel Dynamics is developing a longer range Umkhonto variant with a range exceeding 20 km with a larger motor that extends range to 30 km, and also has designed a command-to-line-of-sight version that could prove attractive in the region as well as a radar-guided version to increase range to 80 km.


External images
The Denel Umkhonto IR/R surface-to-air missiles on static display
 South Africa

Potential sales

In 2004 Brazil expressed an interest in acquiring the missile system for its aircraft carrier São Paulo.[7]

The Swedish government has expressed interest in the Umkhonto-IR system for five Visby class corvettes for at total cost of about 1 bn SEK.[8] Due to budgetary constraints a decision was taken in 2008 to delete the SAM requirement.[citation needed]

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of South Korea proposed this system for their corvette offer for the Bangladesh Navy's Corvette tender in 2011. The offer is under consideration.[citation needed]

The Indonesian government are interested in the Umkhonto-IR system for the SIGMA class Corvette.[citation needed]

The Algerian Navy ordered two Meko A-200 frigates from Germany, which are to be equipped with Umkhonto missiles. These ships are the same type as the South African Navy's Valour class frigates.[9]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Umkhonto-IR Surface-to-air Missile System". Graphic Art Services (on behalf of Denel Dynamics). September 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  2. Kolver, Leandi (2010-01-22). "Brazil still pondering second joint missile project with SA". Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  3. "Denel Tests Extended-Range Umkhonto Surface to Air Missile". October 11, 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Denel successfully fires land-based Umkhonto surface-to-air missile". DefenceWeb. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  5. "SeaNews Turkey - Algeria: Purchase of Two Frigates Confirmed". 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  6. "Algerian Navy signs deal with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems for 2+2 Meko A200 Frigates: Details". 2012-07-25. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  7. The Hindu - 2004-03-06 - Defence ties among India, Brazil, South Africa to be strengthened
  8. - 2007-04-30 - Visby class corvettes to be equiped [sic] with South African Missiles
  9. - - Algeria: Purchase of Two Frigates Confirmed

External links

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