SA ups IRIS-T ante


The South African Air Force has placed a further R601 192.50 contract on German missile maker Diehl BGT Defence for the supply of IRIS-T-related equipment. The contract is an extension of a tender for an undisclosed but small number of the short-range air-to-air missile (SRAAM) first awarded in May 2008.

The infra-red guided IRIS-T was acquired as an interim weapon for the Saab Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft of which the SAAF now have nine two-seat examples and two single-seaters. Four more will arrive before the World Cup in June. The fleet will stand at 26 by 2012, a year before the first Denel Dynamics A-Darter 5th generation SRAAM is delivered to the SAAF.

The IRIS-T (Infra Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled) missiles were delivered late last year and debuted aboard the Gripen at a parade in January to mark the 90th birthday of the SAAF.

The wikipedia says the modern missile costs about €400 000 each, meaning the latest contract is likely not missiles but rather associated equipment.

Chief of the Air Force (CAF) Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano last year said the SAAF was contemplating a beyond visual range AAM (BVRAAM) for Gripen, but adds that high integration costs and a tight budget will likely mean the choice of a weapon already integrated by the original equipment manufacturer.

Denel Dynamics, the state arsenal business unit developing the A-Darter with Brazil under a billion rand programme dubbed Project Assegaai, had hoped to develop a local radar-guided BVRAAM for Gripen, provisionally called the T-Darter.     

Air-to-ground weapons already include Mark 80-series “dumb” bombs and may shortly include US “Paveway” guidance kits for those munitions.