Thursday, November 15, 2018
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A-Darter contract moves missile programme forward

A-Darter.Denel Dynamics has received a production contract for the A-Darter fifth-generation air-to-air missile from Armscor, which covers the production of missiles for the South African Air Force over the next five years.

The missile will arm the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) Gripen C/D fighter jets and Hawk Mk 120 Lead-In Fighter Trainers. It will ultimately supersede the Diehl IRIS-T air-to-air missile, which was acquired for the Gripens as a stop-gap for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The contract, awarded on 19 March, covers the requirements of the SAAF. The Brazilian Air Force is negotiating separately for production for its upgraded F-5 Tiger IIs and Gripen E/F fighters. The Brazilian Air Force is acquiring 36 new generation Gripens.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Air-to-Air team, the programme team, as well as the all Denel Dynamics colleagues who assisted with inputs to prepare the proposal and also with contract negotiations with the customer,” said David Khoza, A-Darter Production Programme Manager, in announcing the contract. “With your help and support, I truly believe that this programme will be a great success for the company with new and great opportunities in the near future.”

The A-Darter is one of the leading projects of Denel Dynamics, the division in the group responsible for advanced systems technology in the missile and UAV environments.

The missile recently underwent further testing, with a successful launch in February. During the most recent test, from a South African Air Force Gripen fighter, an A-Darter was launched at a target drone, flying 600 metres above the launch aircraft, on a perpendicular trajectory to the launch aircraft, and at substantial distance. The missile’s targeting system successfully locked on to the target, the Brazilian Air Force said.

The success of the flight test marks one of the final stages of the missile development. According to Brazilian Air Force Colonel Julius Caesar Cardoso Tavares, the project manager for Brazil, with this release A-Darter is over 90% complete.

With a length of 2.98 meters and weighing 90 kg, the A-Darter is not fitted with the normal small forward wings used for manoeuvring. Instead, the missile steers by directing the thrust of its rocket engine. It is thus able to perform manoeuvres that include load factors of up to 100 g, when the most modern fighter jets cannot exceed 9 g.

The A-Darter missile may be designated to a target by using the aircraft's radar, a helmet sighting system or the missile’s own autonomous scan feature. The seeker's large look-angles and the airframe's agility enable high off-bore sight helmet designated firings. Long-range intercepts beyond infrared detection range are also possible with the lock-on after launch capability of the A-Darter.

Guided by a heat-seeking homing head, the A-Darter also can "see" more of an infrared frequency and can thus avoid being deceived by flares. Its maximum range is approximately 12 miles (19 km).

The development partnership between South Africa and Brazil on the A-Darter began in 2006 and the goal is that both countries produce components for future exports. "In future, sales will be shared. There is already as agreement between the companies," said Tavares.

South Africa, with missile development experience since the 1960s, sought to partner with Brazil due to the complexity of the project. Three hundred million Brazilian réals (R1.3 billion) have been invested in the A-Darter so far, half being directed to Brazilian companies including Mectron, Avibras and Optoelectronics.


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