South Africa’s air-launche launched advances

Aircraft weapons

The South African defence industry is making great strides in the development of air-launched weapons, having produced everything from guided bombs to air-to-air missiles. New companies are entering the market, while established giants such as state-owned aerospace enterprise Denel Dynamics plan next-generation AAMs and other ambitious projects, as Guy Martin explains.

Just half a dozen countries around the world have been able to develop as many air-launched weapons as South Africa, from unguided bombs to missiles. The lead aircraft in this pair of two-seat SAAF JAS 39D Gripens is armed with Mk80 series bombs on Alkan twin store carriers.
Saab/Frans Dely

For a small developing country, South Africa has long punched above its weight when it comes to guided weapons. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it even flirted with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but post-democracy it focused on anti-tank guided missiles, surface-to-air missiles and guided bombs, among others.

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