Denel to sell 96 Umkhonto-R missiles to Egypt

South African state defence company Denel, is working on a contract for the sale of Umkhonto-R surface-to-air missile to the Egyptian military. In the deal, Egypt is looking at procuring up to 96 radar-guided variant of the missile.

According to Mail and Guardian (M&G), a South African newspaper, Denel also intends to sell 32 of the infrared variant of the Umkhonto-R, the proposed sale is worth ZAR4.5 billion ($284 million), with a ZAR1.5 million cash advance.

In order to sell the missile to any party, in May this year, Denel requested for approval from the Department of Defense. The request included the use of intellectual property for the Marlin seeker and dual-pulse rocket motor, as well as warhead technology — so that it could develop the Umkhonto-Radar missile (Umkhonto-R). But the intellectual property would not be transferred to Egypt

If concluded, this sale would go a long way towards ensuring Denel’s survival without calling on the state for bailouts. However, for the sale to move forward, the South African National Conventional Arms Control Commission (NCACC), a regulatory body, must approve it.

Part of the duty of the NCACC is to consider a country's human right record before approving any arms sale. Although, the Egyptian government has been accused several times by the UN of grave human rights abuses, however a South African government source believes that the sale will be approved irrespectively.

Denel spokesperson Pamela Malinda said: “Denel markets and sells all its products and solutions within the framework of the South African Constitution, the National Conventional Arms Control Act and the relevant United Nations resolutions.”

Cash-strapper Denel has struggled to remain profitable amid declining orders from the South African military, although, the company is looking to boost exports abroad to shore up its portfolio.

The sale to Egypt would be the largest export contract in Denel’s history, and according to Denel, the Umkhonto-R missiles will arm the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems range of warships which includes three Meko A200 frigate operated by the Egyptian Navy.

It is expected that the proposed contract would cover funding for development purposes since the Umkhonto-R is still in development and has not yet made a test flight.

Currently, the missile is not ready for serial production, however, external financing from Egypt could help, underscoring the importance of the proposed deal.

So far, Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles (SAM) is being used operationally by navies of South Africa and Finland.

It was designed to provide air defence capabilities for naval forces, the Umkhonto can engage a wide range of airborne threats such as combat aircraft, helicopters, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Patrick Kenyette

Freelance journalist and Photographer, and regular African Military Blog contributor

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