South Africa Missile and Nuclear Milestones – 1960-1995

1960s: South African Atomic Energy Board begins research on fissile material production.

1967: U.S.-supplied Safari-1 research reactor at Pelindaba Nuclear Research Center becomes operational; over the next ten years, the U.S. supplies over 100 kilograms of weapon grade fuel.

1972: West German firm transfers enrichment technology to the Atomic Energy Board.

1975: U.S. nuclear fuel shipments to Safari-1 are suspended because of United Nations sanctions.

1977: Pretoria completes first bomb package; Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) is established.

1978: President P.W. Botha puts Armscor in charge of building a nuclear bomb.

1979: U.S. satellite detects a flash unique to nuclear weapon tests in the South Atlantic; South Africa and Israel deny responsibility.

1989: South Africa tests its first large missile, a modified version of the Israel’s Jericho missile; President F.W. de Klerk orders a halt to the South African nuclear weapon program.

1991: South Africa joins the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state; U.S. penalizes Armscor for missile cooperation with Israel.

1993: President F.W. de Klerk acknowledges that South Africa built six nuclear weapons but dismantled them in 1990-91; Pretoria cancels ballistic missile development.

1995: South Africa joins the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).