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Milkor – air, land, sea and cyber

Milkor has long been recognised for its first product: The multi-shot grenade launcher, which South Africa pioneered and has subsequently been adopted by countries across the globe. To date, Milkor has sold nearly 65,000 of these weapons to almost 70 countries. It continues to refine its six-shot and single shot launchers, which are improving in accuracy, range and durability, as well as, their ability to fire longer-range medium velocity ammunition.

The Milkor grenade launcher range includes the flagship 40 mm SuperSix (capable of firing low- and medium velocity ammunition), the Less Lethal 37/38/40 mm multi-shot launcher, the Under Barrel Grenade Launcher and 37/38- and 40mm Stopper Convertible single shot launchers. Where various iterations are available to meet different customer requirements, with long- and regular length chambers and barrels.

With an intense drive to grow into a world-class defence company, several years ago Milkor made the far-sighted decision to diversify its product line, going into armoured vehicle production, developing unmanned aerial vehicles, sniper rifles, patrol boats and cyber security solutions amongst others.

Armoured vehicles

South Africa has for decades been internationally acknowledged as a leader in the development and production of armoured vehicles, thus using this leverage on the industry’s vast experience to create world-class 4×4 and 8×8 vehicles. Milkor’s first vehicle, the Milkor 4×4 made its debut in 2018 following a rapid, yet strategic two-year development process which quickly attracted launch customers. The 4×4 stands out for being spacious and comfortable while identifying as a relatively light vehicle, making it easier to operate in difficult terrain. Furthermore, the 4×4 is particularly useful in places such as Africa (Tare mass: 9 500 kg, Gross vehicle mass: 15 000 kg), based on a commercial driveline making maintenance simple with its somewhat unusual lack of side doors, as entry and exit is through a rear Hydraulic/Mechanical ramp. In addition, the 4×4 owns a certified blast protected V-shaped hull providing class leading mine protection, adding of its high customisability of being converted into a command centre, ambulance, police and/or riot versions.

The vehicle can take eight passengers and a driver and weapons controller. Various weapons systems are offered for the vehicle, including a remote controlled weapon station with automatic grenade launcher (has successfully tested with a Reutech 12.7 mm turret), or manned turrets, being completely customer dependent. Soldiers inside the vehicle can make use of four hydraulic hatches above their seats to fire their weapons from. In addition, to the standard version of the 4×4, Milkor is also working on a Desert version with increased power to get through thick sand, a left-hand drive command version and an Agile version with reduced weight for superior manoeuvrability.

After finalising the 4×4, Milkor focussed its sights on a 6×6 and 8×8 version, using a design and development team with approximately 60 years of combined experience in the armoured vehicle field. In an increasingly crowded 8×8 market, the new 8×8 will set itself apart among others, through a novel powertrain. The vehicle will primarily be geared for combat and armed with different turret options such as, a 20- or 30mm cannon, 12.7mm machinegun, automatic grenade launcher or small missile launcher. Although it can be tailored to customer requirements, the main focus point will be to develop an infantry combat vehicle with a combined armoured personnel carrier role. Its main markets will be in South America, the Middle East and Far East – Milkor has received valuable interest in its products from the Middle East and is negotiating substantial sales prospects in the regions.

Weapons development

After becoming the preeminent players in the multi-shot grenade launcher market, Milkor has set its sights on the small arms domain by developing a range of sniper rifles to meet keen interest from potential customers. Two series are anticipated: Larger calibre (12.7 mm) for anti-material operations and smaller calibre (up to .338) for anti-personnel sniping. Both lines would be available in military and civil versions and both would be bolt action for superior accuracy. With the launch of the sniper rifle range, Milkor aims to join an elite band of sniper rifle suppliers. Not content with just sniper rifles, Milkor has intentions to manufacture and deal in small calibre firearms and possibly ammunition as well.

Reaching for the sky

In 2018 Milkor launched not one but three unmanned aerial vehicles – an impressive achievement for any company, made even more notable by the short time in which they were developed also considdering their size and sophistication. These systems includes both small and large aircraft, from the hand-launched MA18 to the medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) MA380. Designed for tactical operations and portability, the MA18 can be disassembled and stored in a backpack. It can be flown via an iPad or similar interface. With a 1.8 metre wingspan and payload of 300 grams, the MA18 has a maximum takeoff weight of 3 kg and endurance of 90 minutes.

Named after its 80 kg maximum takeoff weight, the MA80 can carry a 15 kg payload and cruise at 120 km/h for up to 24 hours, although a turboprop engine could increase this to 32 hours. Similar in layout, the larger MA380 has fully retractable landing gear for maximum performance and efficiency. It has a designed range of 2 000 km (with satellite link) and endurance of 20 hours, but with a new turboprop engine endurance could be up to 26 hours. With a wingspan of 12 metres and maximum takeoff weight of 380 kg (hence its designation), it is one of the world’s largest UAVs and has a substantial payload capability of 80 kg.

The larger UAVs are flown by a ground control station that can control up to six aircraft at once while flying the aircraft autonomously or manually. Milkor is able to meet just about every customer’s requirement by fitting the aircraft with a wide variety of sensors: Payload options include electro-optical/infrared sensors including Epsilon and Hensoldt Argos optronics, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and communications/signals/electronic intelligence payloads.

Milkor is one of the few companies in the world to offer weaponised UAV’s and is developing a 14 kg laser-guided missile to accommodate the payload.

Milkor’s UAVs are completely free from International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulations, making them attractive to a large number of markets, more so is the fact that the large MA380 can be armed – Milkor is one of the few companies in the world to offer weaponised UAV’s and is developing a 14 kg laser-guided missile to accommodate the payload. The MA380, for example, will be able to carry two to four of these missiles with little impact on performance.

Watch Milkor’s MA80 in action

All aboard

On the maritime front, Milkor Marine is well progressed in the development of its MN Centurion patrol boat. This 12m long-range patrol craft is a key element of the Milkor naval system which comprises of multiple manned or unmanned patrol craft, integrated with its long-range unmanned aerial vehicles to achieve persistent surveillance patrol over large areas together with an interception capability.

The current prototype is 12 metres long, but the design can be shrunk down to 7 metres or scaled up to 30 metres. The MN Centurion follows an innovative stepped hull hydrofoil-supported catamaran (Hysucat) design, which gives it an exceptionally high top speed of 54 knots (100 km/h), and greatly improved fuel efficiency compared to conventional vessels. The hull design allows high speed as well as stability and fuel economy – maximum range is 1 700 nautical miles (3 150 km) with an endurance of 14 days at surveillance patrol speed of 7 knots (13 km/h). The vessel’s fibre-reinforced composite frame and built-in counter-radar material gives it limited stealth capability, an important requirement in today’s maritime environment.

Engines can be either inboards or outboards, depending on customer requirements. Various weapon and sensor options are available, including radar and cameras and remotely operated weapon stations like the Reutech Rogue, although the vessel is also compatible with a 40 mm grenade launcher and could also accept a 20 mm cannon and guided missiles, allowing it to pack a substantial punch. A configurable aft deck space can be used for personnel transport or configured to operate as an unmanned vehicle.

One of the salient features of the MN Centurion is that it can be offered as an unmanned vessel, and it has been tested as an unmanned surface vessel (USV), which follows the direction the industry is heading in.

Since the MN Centurion was unveiled, Milkor has had substantial interest in the patrol craft but also in possible larger vessels for tasks such as research and towing. In addition to the MN Centurion, Milkor can offer customers a riverine patrol boat, through a partner company.

Launching into cyberspace

Going beyond air, land and sea, Milkor is also venturing into the cyber domain, with the company offering a wide range of solutions, from cyber intelligence to asset/data protection and cyber security. With the increase in cybercrime and warfare, Milkor saw the need to provide dynamic solutions in the cyber security environment that would not only counteract attacks, but prevent them from happening in the future.

Part of Milkor’s value proposition is a security operations centre (SOC), which runs 24/7/365 monitoring the security environment and protecting it. Milkor’s cyber division offers various capabilities and solutions, including network security, endpoint and mobile security, data security solutions, identity management, communications security, and security information and event management (SIEM).

On a similar note, Milkor recently launched Milkor Integrated Systems, aimed at providing communications and control products, systems and integrated solutions. The new division focuses on areas such as communications, signal acquisition and analysis, tactical electronic systems, automation and vehicle control. By enhancing these areas, the range, endurance, safety, interoperability and multi-payload integration of assets can be greatly improved. For example, radios can be made lighter, smaller and more powerful, as well as, upgradable. Enhancing integrated systems is especially important in light of the rapid growth of unmanned and remote-control technology.

Part of the appeal of the Integrated Systems division is that it will enable customers to be the masters of their systems, allowing privacy, upgradability and scope for modifications without permission or expertise from third party suppliers. With a core focus on communications and controls, Milkor Integrated Systems aims to be a supplier of choice to countries that require ITAR-free products and who are looking for non-aligned solutions.

Global ambitions

Milkor is well on the way to becoming a major global supplier, competing with large established South African and international aerospace and defence companies. This is aided by the fact that Milkor is politically neutral and its products are ITAR-free, making them attractive to customers around the world. The company’s products and solutions are able to address a raft of requirements, from counter-insurgency to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), maritime security and peacekeeping. These have been showcased to customers and potential customers across the globe, with Milkor having a presence at all the world’s major defence exhibitions, demonstrating its resolve to showcase its products across the world.

Milkor is highly agile and not affected by sluggishness that often affects larger companies. Rather than just developing and offering products, Milkor is able to offer customers customised solutions tailored to their specific needs. Due to the company’s agility and in-house design and development expertise, Milkor is able to produce reliable solutions of superior quality within a short timeframe.

Milkor is well on the way to becoming a major global supplier, competing with large established South African and international aerospace and defence companies.

A common experience of users around the world is a lack of training on equipment, as well as, poor or non-existent after-sales service, maintenance and support. Milkor offers a complete end-to-end solution that incorporates training and through-life-cycle support, ensuring operators are properly qualified to use its equipment and keep it serviceable.

The rapid expansion and agile growth shown by Milkor is a clear indication that the company is committed to growing the defence industry through an entrepreneurial approach, with the company on track to be a leading global supplier of aerospace, defence and security products.

The company is well on the way to creating the same reputation for its other products as it has built up over the years for its grenade launchers, which established Milkor’s highly regarded international reputation.

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