The Denel Dynamics A-Darter 5th generation infra-red guided short range air-to-air missile is a step closer to production following a successful series of undisclosed guided launches in January.
The joint R1 billion missile programme between South Africa and Brazil is in its fifth year of development, and only a hand-full of countries in the world are capable of developing missiles in this class.
“We successfully executed the air launched guided missile firings from the South African Air Force’s SAAB Gripen fighter platform at the local Overberg Test Range,” said Deon Olivier, Business Development Manager for Air-to-Air missiles. “These launches were completed against (amongst others) the Denel Dynamics high speed Skua aerial target drone which is designed for high subsonic missile testing and evaluation.”
The programme has now entered its qualification phase, and is well on its way to completion by next year (2013), with the ultimate goal of being production-ready by the end of that year. The initial fighter aircraft for integration are the Hawk and Gripen for the South African Air Force (SAAF), and the Northrop F-5M for the Brazilian Air Force. It is likely that A-Darter will enter into operational service in both air forces in 2014, Denel Dynamics said in a statement released at the Defence and Security Asia 2012 show in Thailand.
The company says the relationship with the Brazilian Air Force and Brazilian industry on the development programme has strengthened the ties between the two countries and may lead to more cooperation opportunities. “There are also significant export opportunities for this product into further markets, particularly with A-Darter’s aircraft integration flexibility across platforms,” said Olivier.
The A-Darter was successfully launched in-flight from a Gripen fighter jet for the first time on 17 June 2010. This led to all subsequent firings taking place with clearance for the full carriage and firing envelopes of the Gripen. It ultimately resulted in a successful clearance programme – commended by SAAB as well as South African certification authorities.