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South African company Milkor marketing its new drone. Photo supplied

New South African drone to compete with Turkey’s Bayraktar

The South African defense company Milkor unveiled its Milkor 380 reconnaissance and attack unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It is expected to become a competitor to Turkey's Bayraktar and Anka drones.

Published: September 25, 2022, 8:35 am

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    The launch was held at the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2022 international arms exhibition being held in Pretoria from September 21-25.

    Previously, a mock-up was exhibited at the IDEX-2021 defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

    Main competitors of the South African UAV, in addition to Turkey’s Bayraktar and Anka, will also include products from US firm General Atomics, a Milkor spokesperson told Sputnik News.

    Bayraktar drones have been deployed by a number of other nations around the world in various conflicts, such as by Azerbaijan in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, by the Armed Forces of Ukraine against Russia as well as by the Ethiopian National Defense Force during the Tigray War.

    British and Canadian parts

    The Turkish UAV has relied on imported and regulated components and technologies such as Rotax 912 engines (manufactured in Austria) and optoelectronics (FLIR sensors imported from Wescam in Canada or Hensoldt from Germany). Bombardier Recreational Products, owner of Rotax, suspended delivery of their engines to certain countries in October 2020, after becoming aware of their military use despite being certified for civil use only.

    According to British newspaper The Guardian, the arming of the Bayraktar TB2 would not have been possible without the help of the British Hornet micro-munitions bomb rack by EDO MBM Technology. The bomb rack was provided to Turkey in 2015, and a variant of it was integrated into the aircraft by EDO MBM and Roketsan.

    Although Turkey has denied it, On 19 August 2020 the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) disclosed details of a six-year history of exports of the Hornet bomb rack to Turkey between 2014 and 2020, suggesting that supply of the critical technology to Turkey had continued well beyond the development stage of the Bayraktar TB2.

    In October 2020 the use of the Canadian Wescam MX-15D system in the drone was disclosed after Armenian officials claimed that remains of a MX-15D system had been recovered from a downed TB2 drone during the nation’s conflict with Azerbaijan. That triggered the stopping of MX-15D exports to Turkey.

    Clients shun domestic alternatives

    Turkish industry responded to foreign sales boycotts by announcing provision of domestically manufactured alternatives.

    However, the majority of Baykar’s customers, including Ukraine, Poland, Morocco, and Kuwait, declined to purchase the domestically produced Aselsan CATS electro-optical turret and opted instead to order the Wescam MX-15D through an authorized distributor.

    The advantage of Milkor 380 is that the entire component base of the drone is produced by South African companies, the spokesperson said. Moreover, the developer is ready to train operators of customer countries to manage these UAVs.

    Final testing stage

    Milkor 380 is a medium-altitude long-range UAV, whose functions can be used both for reconnaissance and combat actions, the company said, adding that it was also available for export. The drone is fitted with guided weapons and various payloads to perform multiple operations, such as SAR/ISAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar/Inverted Synthetic Aperture Radar), Communications Intelligence (COMINT), AIS (Automatic Identification System), communications relay, and communications jammers.

    The airframe includes five hardpoints: two on each wing and one at the centre of the fuselage, with the ability to carry larger systems if needed.

    The maximum flight range of the South African drone is 2 000 kilometers at altitudes of up to 9 kilometers at the maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour. The maximum flight duration is 35 hours. The UAV weighs 1,3 tonnes, while the payload can reach up to 210 kilograms.

    According to the company spokesperson, the South African drone is currently at the final stage of testing.

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