In a historic milestone for the African aerospace industry, Milkor, a prominent South African defense conglomerate, successfully completed the maiden flight of its Milkor 380 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on September 19. This achievement marks a significant step in the development of the largest armed UAV in Africa, firmly placing South Africa among a select group of countries that have successfully developed and flown a UAV of this size. With an impressive wingspan of 18.6 meters and a maximum takeoff weight of 1,300 kg, the Milkor 380 promises to reshape the landscape of unmanned aerial warfare. The Milkor 380, unveiled in 2018, has been in development for several years, with taxi testing initiated earlier this year. Flight trials and sensor integration will continue throughout 2023, underscoring Milkor’s commitment to delivering a state-of-the-art UAV designed for long-endurance Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations. What sets this platform apart is its ability to carry an external payload of 210 kg, including a range of weapons and sensors.
The Milkor 380 has already been showcased with an impressive array of armaments, including 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. This versatility positions it as a formidable asset for a wide range of missions and operational requirements. The first five units of the Milkor 380 are earmarked for domestic use, with the inaugural aircraft produced at Milkor’s expansive 10,000 square meter manufacturing facility in Cape Town. These units are currently undergoing rigorous testing and evaluation exclusively by the South African Air Force. This endeavor is a result of a memorandum of understanding signed between Milkor, Armscor, and the South African Air Force during the Africa Aerospace and Defense (AAD) expo in September of the previous year.
The introduction of the Milkor 380 comes at a time when unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become an indispensable asset in modern warfare. Over the last two decades, military drones have primarily been utilized for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions and precision airstrikes. However, the Milkor 380, with its remarkable capabilities and adaptability, ushers in a new era of drone technology that can fulfill a wide range of operational requirements. Milkor has proven itself as a dominant player in the unmanned aerospace sector, with the Milkor 380 being the latest addition to their impressive lineup. The platform has been meticulously developed to cater to the demands of the modern battlefield, positioning it as a “guardian in the sky” during complex operations. The aircraft features five hardpoints for interchangeable user-specific systems, with the flexibility to accommodate larger systems when needed. Its internally designed avionics enhance aircraft stability, maneuverability, and ease of use for operators.
With a maximum endurance of up to 35 hours and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 1,300 kg, the Milkor 380 is classified as a medium altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV. Its external payload capacity of 210 kg enables the deployment of a wide range of weapons and equipment, including synthetic aperture radar, jammers, electro-optical gimbals, and more. All avionics, communications, and payload integration capabilities have been developed in-house, showcasing Milkor’s commitment to delivering a cutting-edge solution. One noteworthy achievement by Milkor is the development of its Line-of-Sight (LOS) communications system, which employs a relayed line-of-sight (RLOS) communication network, significantly extending its operational range. The platform also offers optional satellite communications (SATCOM), further enhancing its operational reach. As recent global conflicts have demonstrated, UAVs are integral to modern warfare, and the Milkor 380 is well-positioned to fill the existing gap in the unmanned aerospace sector. Milkor’s emphasis on data ownership, system adaptability, maintenance, support, and operational expansion freedom makes the Milkor 380 platform a compelling choice for operators.