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South African Navy Announces Successful Missile Tests With Israel-South Africa

February 14, 1987

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ The South African navy successfully tested its Scorpion ship-to-ship missiles this month, demolishing two surface targets with direct hits, it announced Saturday.

The Scorpion missiles were launched over the horizon, off the northern Natal coast, from Minister-class strike craft, a statement from navy headquarters said.

″Both targets in fact completely disintegrated and sank within seconds after being hit,″ the statement said. ″Such was the force of the blast that no debris remained in the area.″

The statement said the tests established the continued reliability of the Durban-built Minister class strike crafts’ weapons systems beyond all doubt.

The craft involved in the tests are based at Durban and at Simonstown near Cape Town.

The navy said there would be no comment beyond its brief written statement.

Since 1963, South Africa has been under a United Nations arms embargo, which was made mandatory in 1977. The embargo, and increasing concern about the regional and domestic security situation, has inspired a major expansion of military strength and an intense effort to develop locally made weapons systems particularly suited to southern African conditions.

Most information on South African weapons and defense forces is kept secret. But it is known that the navy has lately placed a high premium on expanding its strike craft flotilla.

The South African Press Association said Saturday one reason is the political and economic factors prohibiting the expansion of the relatively small battle ship fleet.

The 204-foot strike craft have a top speed of more than 34 1/2 mph and carry six Scorpion missiles apiece, the press agency said, quoting naval analysts.

″The electronically sophisticated vessels are seen as crucial for modern naval warfare, and for racing up and down South Africa’s coastline to protest the country’s shores,″ the South African Press Association said.

At least eight of the vessels were commissioned from Durban’s Sandock Austral Shipyard between 1977 and 1983, the agency said.

Each strike craft carries an average seven officers and 40 crew; two 76mm guns; two 20mm machine guns; and four 12.7mm machine guns, it added.

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