A-Darter type certification marks development completion


A type certificate has been issued for the Denel Dynamics A-Darter fifth generation air-to-air missile, with qualification and certification concluding development of the weapon, which will enter service on South African and Brazilian Air Force Gripen fighters.

Denel today said the A-Darter’s Formal Qualification Review was successfully concluded in August 2019 and the certification authorities from Brazil and South Africa gave the final approval for the issuing of the Type Certificate in September 2019. The Institute for Industrial Development and Coordination (IFI) and Directorate System Integrity (DSI) are the responsible certification authorities in Brazil and South Africa respectively.

A ceremony was held on 26 September 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil, for the presentation of the A-Darter Type Certificate to Denel Dynamics from both IFI and DSI and the handing over of the A-Darter Data Package from the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) to the Brazilian Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA).

The Type Certificate received by Denel Dynamics is the official acknowledgement that the A-Darter missile meets the technical, operational, logistical, industrial and safety requirements and therefore this concludes the development of the A-Darter missile, Denel said. The Data Package is the material of all the knowledge that was produced throughout the development cycle of the A-Dater programme.

The Director General of the DCTA) Lt. Brig. Luiz Fernando de Aguiar, who received the Data Package from Armscor, said “this partnership with South Africa in Project A-Darter has achieved all of its goals. The missile will be an important item incorporated into the Brazilian Gripen, and will allow Brazil to absorb technology from this device.”

The General also highlighted the work of the Combat Aircraft Program Coordinating Commission (COPAC) and the South African government. “I am grateful for the professional manner in which the process was conducted by COPAC and, on behalf of the Brazilian Air Force, wish to thank the South African Ministry of Defence for working with us in a fully committed and unrestricted manner,” he said.

Development of the V3E Agile Darter (A-Darter) began under Project Assegai in 1995 but funding cuts put development on hold until Brazil joined the programme in 2006. Brazil’s Avibras helped develop the rocket motor, OptoEletronica assisted with the seeker head and Mectron (now SIATT) brought experience as the manufacturer of all Brazil’s missiles.

Test firings began in 2010 and product baseline established in 2018, paving the way for industrialisation and manufacturing (several years late). The SAAF placed a R939 million production contract with Denel for the missile in March 2015, with the first four trainer missiles scheduled for delivery in the 2018/19 financial year and the final batch of operational missiles scheduled for delivery in the 2021 calendar year.

The A-Darter was due to be integrated onto both the SAAF’s Hawk and Gripen platforms, but it appears that funding constraints will mean the weapon will only be carried by the SAAF’s 26 Gripen C/D jets. In Brazil, the A-Darter will equip the Air Force’s 36 new Gripen E/F fighters, with production of the missile in Brazil.

Denel Dynamics said it has received interest in the A-Darter missile from prospective clients and is very confident that the missile’s performance will meet the expectations of the prospective clients.

The 20 kilometre range A-Darter is a body-lift missile with thrust vector control for high angle of attack agility, has a low launch signature motor, and a multi-element imaging infrared seeker with a look angle of 180 degrees. It can be designated using the aircraft’s radar, helmet sight or the missile’s autonomous scan feature if radar silence is required. A high look angle means it can engage targets next to or even behind the launch aircraft. It has a speed of around Mach 3.

Denel said that “with the establishment of a qualified and certified A-Darter missile, South Africa and Brazil have become part of the selected few countries in the world to produce a 5th generation imaging infrared short range missile.”