The Denel Dynamics Marlin missile is at an advanced stage of development, with test flights of the 100 km range radar-guided weapon having already been carried out.
Marlin is a radar-guided beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile technology demonstrator and the intention is to also use Marlin technology in an all-weather surface-to-air version. It is being developed by Denel Dynamics under an Armscor/Department of Defence technology demonstrator contract.
According to Ivan Gibbons, Chief systems engineer at Denel Dynamics, various tests have been carried out, such as rocket motor firings and firing of a largely complete missile from the Denel Overberg Test Range two years ago using a ground-mounted launcher to test the missile’s manoeuvrability and flight characteristics. The missile has also been fitted to a pod mounted on a South African Air Force (SAAF) Gripen fighter. Denel Dynamics is now heading towards a guided flight test that will use the radar seeker to shoot down a target drone.
Gibbons, speaking at a presentation organised by the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA), explained that the Marlin uses a dual pulse rocket motor for extended range (two fuel chambers and one exhaust nozzle). For long range engagements the first pulse fires and the missile glides towards its target before the second pulse fires at a later point in time. For shorter engagements, both pulses can be fired almost simultaneously. Top speed could be around Mach 4. Flight control is by servo motor controlled fins.
Gibbons said there were many challenging issues to be dealt with when designing a missile like Marlin, such as high G loads (at least 30 Gs), vibration on the aircraft, electromagnetic interference, the effects of flying through rain, and thermal shock. As an example the missile has to operate in -50 degree Celsius temperatures while the leading edges of the missile can reach up to 900 degrees Celsius once launched.
Denel Dynamics is working with Armscor on Marlin, as well as other entities like Saab – the latter is especially important since the Marlin is being fitted to the Gripen. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) did wind tunnel testing of the missile while the Test Flight and Development Centre (TFDC) and Denel Overberg Test Range have been used for test firings. Another important partner is Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM), which provided the rocket motor.
Although the Marlin is a technology demonstrator at the moment, it is likely that it will be used by the South African Air Force (SAAF), as the SAAF currently lacks a beyond visual range (BVR) missile and at present only has the interim infrared guided IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile (SRAAM) in service, although the Denel Dynamics A-Darter SRAAM is about to enter service – final acceptance of this will be completed before the end of the year.
Denel Dynamics also sees Marlin configured into an all-weather surface-to-air missile. Common subsystems will be used for the different variants of the weapon, with some components tailored specifically for the relevant application of the missile.
Although Marlin is fully funded by the Department of Defence via Armscor, Denel Dynamics is looking for an international partner to collaborate with during the future development programme.