Umkhonto ground-based launcher (GBL) is a mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) vertical launching system being developed by Denel Dynamics primarily for the South African Army’s ground-based air defence system (GBADS) requirement. The Umkhonto SAM system was developed by Denel Dynamics for the SA Navy’s Meko A200 class frigates, and is in service in both Block 1 and Block 2 versions. The Block 2, with a range of 15km, is also used by the Finnish Navy aboard its Hamina class corvettes and Hämeenmaa class mine layers. The successful ground-based firing tests proved that the range of the Umkhonto has now been extended to 20km while the physical dimensions of the missile remain unchanged. The newly-developed ground-based launcher now provides an alternative that can also be used by the SA Army’s for Phase 2 of its Ground-based Air Defence System (GBADS) – a project that is also managed by Denel.
The missile system is intended to provide all-round protection for the armed forces against airborne threats, including attack aircraft, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Umkhonto-IR MkII infrared-guided surface-to-air missile is a Block 2 version of Umkhonto SAM, while the Umkhonto-R is designed to offer an extended range over the Umkhonto Block 2. Both Umkhonto-R and Umkhonto-IR MkII surface-to-air missiles are powered by a low-smoke rocket motor. The Umkhonto-R has a maximum range of 20km, while the Umkhonto-IR MkII offers a range of 15km. Each missile can engage up to four targets simultaneously, has a maximum speed of Mach 2 and can travel up to 8km in 18 seconds.
In September 2016, Denel Dynamics partnered with Saab, a defence and security solutions provider headquartered in Sweden, to integrate the Giraffe AMB surveillance radar with Umkhonto weapon system. The GBL concept is similar to the naval application. It operates autonomously for extended periods without significant replenishment requirement. It is specifically designed to launch the well-known Umkhonto range of missiles using the designated homing principle. The Umkhonto GBL vertical launching system is operated and controlled by the launch platform’s command and control centre through communication devices such as radio link, hard-wired or optical fibre.
The Umkhonto GBL vertical launching system is 6.05m-long, 2.43m-wide and 2m-high and can carry up to eight Umkhonto-R and Umkhonto-IR (Infrared) MkII missile rounds. The ground-based launcher system has vertical launch capability with 360° coverage and can also operate in surface attack mode. The launcher has an empty weight of 4,500kg and a full load weight of 7,100kg. It is transportable by air, land and sea using helicopter or military transport aircraft such as C130. It can be installed in land-based or naval air defence systems or can be mounted on vehicles that are built to ISO 668 Lock and STANAG 2413 hook-lift standard