Denel has for the first time displayed a modular guidance and range-extension kit suitable for use with Mk82/83 unguided bombs, which it says will increase the type's operational range to a stand-off distance of up to 120km (65nm).

Dubbed Umbani, the new design has already undergone captive carriage trials in South Africa and is expected to undergo its first flight test next year as part of an ongoing company-funded technology demonstration effort.

Testing to date has centred on proving the design's onboard sensors, says Denel Aerospace Systems. Featuring GPS guidance or potentially an imaging infrared or laser seeker head for use in varying environmental conditions, the design is expected to have a circular error of probability of 3m (9.7ft).

Maximum range will be achieved by equipping the weapon with a booster rocket and a range extension wing kit. The company has drawn on systems used on in-service weapons such as its Raptor II air-to-surface missile to create the new guidance kit, it says.

Denel hopes the Umbani could gain selection to arm the South African Air Force's (SAAF) future inventory of 28 Saab/BAE Systems Gripen multirole fighters, deliveries of which will start in 2008. The company says it has already made presentations on the new bomb guidance kit to air force officials.

If successful in securing a launch customer for the design, the guidance kit could be made available to arm legacy fighter aircraft as well as new-generation strike platforms, says Denel.

The SAAF will later this year finalise its baseline weapons package for the Gripen, which will comprise air-to-surface stores and both short- and medium-range air-to-air missiles. Future editions could include a stand-off range cruise missile and a reconnaissance pod.

Industry and military sources suggest that Denel's A-Darter short-range air-to-air missile will be among those weapons selected to arm the aircraft.

Source: Flight International