Locally-made super drones expected in SA skies soon

  • The South African Department of Defence is investing millions in the production of five UAVs from local manufacturer Milkor.
  • The Milkor 380 drones are built for reconnaissance, long-range observation and opportunistic attacks.
  • They fly completely unmanned at a maximum height of 30 000 ft and can stay in the air for 35 hours.

A local defence company that specialises in manufacturing grenade launchers is building the largest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) ever produced on the continent, and the South African government is investing millions in them.

These drones, called the Milkor 380 medium-altitude and long-endurance (MALE) unmanned system, have a maximum altitude of 30 000 ft, a maximum travel range of 2 000-plus kilometres and can manage uninterrupted, unmanned flight for 35 hours.

Military Africa, which reported last year on the reveal of the Milkor 380 at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition 2022, said that Milkor received international recognition for the vehicle at the showcase and that the SA government showed interest.

“Following a successful presentation of the Milkor 380 at the African Aerospace and Defence Exhibition in September of this year, international recognition on the Milkor 380 and its capabilities has been garnered from countries across eastern Europe and Asia,” Milkor indicated at the time.

It continued that, “during AAD, Milkor signed an MOU with the Department of Defence, Armscor and the South African Air Force illustrating their continued commitment to supply these systems and will manufacture five units during 2023 dedicated for South African use.”

Indeed, a City Press report published on Sunday extolled that the SA Air Force (SAAF) is currently testing Milkor 380 drones in Cape Town, together with the manufacturer.

The Milkor 380 is the largest UAV ever built in Africa.

However, the number of drones currently ready and when exactly the drones will enter service has yet to be revealed. Milkor is set to build five drones this year, which will apparently cost millions of Rand in their manufacture.

Another important piece of information unanswered is who is being trained to fly the UAVs.

The Department of Defence has also not indicated what the drones will actually be used for once they are complete and ready for service. Daniël du Plessis, manager of business development at Milkor, says the 380 can be used for observation, reconnaissance and attacks.

It can carry a maximum payload of 210 kg for, “opportunistic engagement operations,” writes Milkor.

“With a wide variety of payload options, the 380 acts as a guardian in the sky and can conduct extended-range and long-endurance missions.”

Du Plessis believes that the drones could be used for border control and conservation efforts like anti-poaching operations.

[Image – Milkor]


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