Milkor has achieved a significant milestone with the inaugural flight of its Milkor 380 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), representing a substantial step forward in the development of its flagship aircraft, which stands as the largest armed UAV originating from Africa. This historic flight, which took place on the 19th of September, positions South Africa among a select group of nations globally that have successfully conceived and operated a UAV of such impressive dimensions. The Milkor 380 boasts a formidable wingspan of 18.6 meters and an impressive maximum takeoff weight of 1,300 kilograms.
Unveiled in 2018, the Milkor 380 embarked on taxi testing earlier this year. Daniel du Plessis, the Marketing and Communications Director at Milkor, emphasized the significance of the first flight, noting that it signifies a remarkable achievement for both Milkor and the South African Defence Industry (SADI). Flight trials and sensor integration will remain at the forefront of developments throughout the year 2023.
Specifically engineered for extended Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions, the Milkor 380 is designed to accommodate an external payload of 210 kilograms, which includes an assortment of weapons and sensors. Notable examples of these include the Al Tariq X-series precision guided munitions, Halcon Desert Sting DS-16 guided bombs, FZ602 laser-guided rocket launchers, an L3-Harris gimbal, and Airborne Technologies’ Self Contained Aerial Reconnaissance (SCAR) Pod.
Milkor has designated the initial five units of this UAV for domestic utilization, with the first aircraft already undergoing comprehensive testing and evaluation at its expansive 10,000 square meter manufacturing facility located in Cape Town. This commitment was solidified through a memorandum of understanding signed between Milkor, Armscor, and the South African Air Force at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) expo held in September the previous year.
According to du Plessis, this development provides an extraordinary opportunity to enhance the operational capabilities of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), South African Police Service (SAPS), and the Border Management Authority (BMA), while simultaneously ensuring extended operational readiness through embedded support. He further highlighted the importance of shared responsibility with the local industry to secure a sustainable service life for South African end users, as reported by South Africa’s DefenceWeb.
The public can anticipate the first public demonstrations of the Milkor 380 at the African Aerospace and Defence Exhibition in September 2024, with Milkor taking on the role of Diamond Sponsor for this event.
Beyond satisfying domestic requirements, Milkor is positioned to cater to the burgeoning global interest in UAV procurement. The company has strategically expanded its presence to India, the Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, and South Africa, positioning itself favorably to meet the growing international demand.
Daniel du Plessis expressed Milkor’s eagerness to engage with end users and decision-makers worldwide, underscoring the intrinsic value demonstrated by UAVs in active conflicts over recent years. He also affirmed Milkor’s commitment to delivering cutting-edge technologies within the unmanned aerial vehicle domain, underpinned by the capability to manufacture all critical components in-house.
With an impressive endurance capability of up to 35 hours, the Milkor 380 is categorized as a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV. Its five hardpoints can accommodate a diverse range of weaponry and equipment, including synthetic aperture radar, jammers, electro-optical gimbals, and more. Notably, all avionics, communications, and payload integration capabilities have been developed in-house, solidifying Milkor’s standing in the UAV industry.