Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA
Denel's Kentron division is exploring ground and sea launched variants of its low-observable Multi-Purpose Stand-Off Weapon(MUPSOW).
The company also confirms that it is working on a submunition system for the missile, and expects an initial production order from the South African Air Force (SAAF) to support operational deployment of an air launched version after 2003.
"The concept is proven," according to Kentron officials, citing firing trials of a ground launched MUPSOW prototype in 1996. The ground launched version will use the launching system developed by Kentron for its Skua target drone. Kentron officials say that the inspiration for the variant was a joint deployment with South African Defence Force units equipped with a proposed reconnaissance version of Skua.
The sea launched version was the subject of intensive studies during 1996, aimed at adapting the weapon for use in ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore roles. The missile would be carried and launched in an elevating canister, with rocket boosters added to provide zero length launch. Further work is required on booster development, the company says. South Africa's navy is expected to seek an anti-shipping missile for its new MEKO-series frigates.
Kentron has been investigating the use of submunition types developed by European firms, but declines to identify specific types. The development of submunitions for the MUPSOW included static trials of a prototype dispenser and projectiles up until 1996, but work has largely been halted since.
The firm is seeking a partner to support development and industrialisation of the weapon, and is talking to European missile houses.
The MUPSOW was first revealed by Kentron in 1995. The weapon is intended as a successor to the RAPTOR-1, in service with the SAAF for 16 years. At least one RAPTOR variant is known to have supported a submunitions dispenser with a man-in-the-loop capability for post-strike assessment. Kentron plans to incorporate similar terminal guidance capabilities in the MUPSOW.