South Africa military drones – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Milkor's line of UAV displayed during the IDEX 2019 Exhibition

South African military drones
For decades, South Africa has continually solidified its position as a major player in the military drone sector. The Southern African country’s top defense companies – Milkor, Denel Dynamics, CSIR, and ATE – have all developed military drone concepts, ranging from hand-launched drones to larger armed types.

The South African Air Force activated the 10th Squadron as a dedicated UAV squadron in 1986 and was headquartered at Air Force Base Potchefstroom. The 10th Squadron was equipped with the Scout and Seeker however, recent records that the squadron is nonexistent.

For year’s now, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is deploying drones for security missions, with the South African Army flying the locally designed and developed Indiza hand-launched drone for border patrol and peacekeeping missions, as well as small multi-rotors for surveillance.

In South Africa, drones are increasingly being used for wildlife conservation and anti-poaching missions.

Milkor’s drones

Milkor’s drone portfolio includes MA380, MA80, MA18. The MA380 is the largest drone of the group and was designed for long-endurance missions such as search-and-rescue operations, ISR, and maritime patrol.

Its endurance is 20 hours, with a maximum range of 2000km. The MA380 is equipped with hardpoints under each wing that can be fitted with armaments and optronic equipment.

Milkor desert sting guided munition
Milkor’s MA380 drone and desert sting guided munition

Meanwhile, the MA80 is similar in design to the MA380 but smaller with a wingspan length of 6 meters, greater endurance of 24+ hours, a maximum range of 250km, and capable of carrying payloads of around 15kg.

Elsewise, the Milkor MA18 is a hand-launched drone weighing 3kg and can carry small payloads of 300g. It has an endurance of around 90 minutes at a range of fewer than 30km.

Denel Dynamics’ Seeker drones

The Scout and Seeker drones were deployed to Angola for operation Modular, Hooper, and Packer in 1987-1988 for ISR and artillery spotting. Three Seekers drones were shot down by the enemy fire.

Denel Dynamics’ Seeker drone is designed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, both day and night in all threat environments. However, since 1994, the Seeker drones have been retired in South African Air Force, in service with other organizations.

Denel Dynamics Seeker 1 drone
Denel Dynamics Seeker 1 drone is usually equipped with either a Payload that consisted of a 2-axis gimbal platform on which two sensors; a Colour TV and a secondary sensor consisting of a wide-angle monochrome TV, or a Multi-Sensor Payload consisting of a stabilized 2-axis gimbal platform on which two sensors; a primary Thermal Imaging Sensor and a secondary sensor fitted with a color TV camera.

The Seeker 1 was used during the South African Border War with great effect.

Denel Dynamics Seeker 2 drone
The Denel Dynamics Seeker 2 drone is the baseline standard of the Seeker series and is also the export model.

The Seeker 2 has a range of 250 km and altitudes of up to 20,000 feet (6,100 m). The type can be fitted with a wide array of various day and night time sensors and electronic surveillance payloads.

A Seeker II UAV is deployed against rhinoceros poachers in Kruger National Park since 2012.

Denel Dynamics’ Seeker 400 drone
The Denel Dynamics Seeker 400 drone is the latest and most capable variant of the Seeker family of UAVs. It offers improved situational awareness capabilities over the Seeker 2 drone.

The Seeker 400 is designed for real-time day and night ISR missions, target location and designation for artillery fire, Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and Electronic Support Measures (ESM) as well as border and maritime patrol missions.

Endurance is 16 hours with a maximum of 100 kg of multi-mission payloads.
Denel Dynamics tested an armed version of the Seeker 400 in 2013 that can mount laser-guided ordnance under its wing hardpoint. The type has been exported to the UAE and Algeria.

Denel Dynamics’ Bateleur drone
The Bateleur (or eagle) is a medium-altitude – long-endurance (MALE) UAV designed for surveillance and intelligence capability.

The Bateleur was designed to carry a maximum payload mass of 200 kg (440 lb), with a maximum range of only 750 km (470 mi), however, Denel proposed to fit a Ku-band satellite data link which will allow the Bateleur to extend its range to around 3 500 km (2 175 miles). To date, not much is heard about the outcome of the Bateleur.

Denel’s Skua target drone was designed to mimic fast attack aircraft and is thus used for testing weaponry, such as Denel’s own Umkhonto surface-to-air missile and the Brazilian-made MAA-1 Piranha air-to-air missile.

The Skua reach speeds of Mach 0.86 (1,062km/h) at an altitude of around 32,800ft. According to Denel, the endurance of the Skua is 60 minutes at a speed of Mach 0.7 (865km/h) and an altitude of roughly 20,000ft.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Indiza

Indiza, locally developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and Defsec were reportedly deployed in the DRC with South African peacekeepers. Indiza is a hand-launched mini-drone fitted with three different camera modules, GPS-based autopilot, radio modem, and video transmitter.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Long Endurance Modular Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (LEMU)
The LEMU is a twin-engine drone that first flew in 2009. There are two variants; one with an internal combustion engine and another with an electric engine. CSIR intends to begin flight tests by 2020, and the max take-off weight is 65 kilograms with up to 20 kilograms of payload capacity.

Advanced Technology and Engineering (ATE) Vulture
Advanced Technology and Engineering (ATE) Vulture drones are a catapult-launched designed in 2006 for coastal surveillance, medium-range ISR, and border patrol.

It comes equipped with an interchangeable near-infrared (NIR) or forward-looking infrared radiometer (FLIR) day and night camera, a digital DSSS secure data link, and a gyro-stabilized electronic sight payload as well as a synthetic aperture radar.

Paramount Group’s N-Raven drone
Paramount Group unveiled its new N-Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) swarming technology on 22 February at the International Defence Exhibition & Conference (IDEX) 2021 in Abu Dhabi.

Paramount N-Raven swarm technology

According to Paramount, the N-Raven weighs 41 kg and with a cruising speed of 180 km/h. The N-Raven system can be equipped with an electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) and semi-active laser for advanced field intelligence.

List of South African military from

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