Air Defense: Missiles For Small Ships


May 2, 2007: South African firm Denel has been selected to supply anti-aircraft missile systems for Swedens new Visby class "stealth corvettes." Denels Umkhonto missiles weigh 286 pounds each, are stored in four or eight cell launchers, and launched straight up. With a range of 12 kilometers, the Umkhonto can hit aircraft as high as 33,000 feet. The missile uses the ships radar to get near the target, then uses a heat seeker to home in. It will cost about $30 million to equip each of the five Visby class ships.

With a hull made of carbon fiber material, and topside surfaces shaped to deflect radar, the Visby is hard to spot electronically. Armed with a 57mm gun, plus surface to surface and anti-aircraft missiles as well as torpedoes, the 650 ton Visby is designed to take on a wide range of opponents. The crew is small (43), but the ship can move fast (about 70 kilometers an hour) in all kinds of weather. The Visby has radar, sonar and thermal imaging equipment. The ships are 240 feet long, 34 feet wide and had a draught of only eight feet. The Umkhonto system is also used on Finnish and South African warships.


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