Although Brazil is a partner in the development of the A-Darter fifth generation air-to-air missile, Denel Dynamics only recently received a contract to integrate the missile onto the Brazilian Air Force’s Gripen fighter jets.
According to the Denel annual report for the 2015/16 period, Denel Dynamics received a contract to “integrate the missile onto the Brazilian FX2 aircraft”. The FX2 fighter competition resulted in the selection of the Saab Gripen E/F in 2014, with 36 being ordered.
The Denel annual report also noted that the follow-on contract for the production of A-Darter for the South African Air Force that was placed towards the end of the previous financial year is progressing well. The missile is being integrated onto the South African Air Force’s Gripen fighters and Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter-trainers. The SA Air Force ordered the missile in March 2015. Deliveries of operational missiles is expected in 2017.
Drawing on experience with the Kentron V3A/B/C Kukri heat seeking missiles and V4/R-Darter radar guided air-to-air missile, Denel Dynamics in 2006 began development of the fifth generation short range infrared guided A-Darter. Due to the complexity of the project, Brazil was taken on board as a partner. Some of the Brazilian companies participating in the A-Darter project include Avibras (rocket motors), Mectron (which makes missiles) and Opto Eletronica (seeker head).
Instead of being controlled by forward mounted wings, the A-Darter is steered by thrust vectoring, giving it exceptional manoeuvrability and allowing it to perform manoeuvres up to 100 g. Its rocket motor uses smokeless propellant, which results in a small launch flash and almost no smoke trail. The nearly three metre long, 93 kilogramme missile has a range of approximately 20 kilometres. Its two-colour seeker and decoy rejection software means it is highly resistant to jamming. It features a laser fuse for its warhead and multi-mode counter-countermeasures suite.
It can be designated onto a target by the launch aircraft’s radar; through the missile’s seeker head or by a helmet-mounted sight – the latter allows it to engage targets to the side and behind the launch aircraft. In addition, the A-Darter has lock-on after launch capability, allowing for the engagement of targets beyond infrared detection range.