SAAF Gripens get sting


The Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T (Infra Red Imaging System – Tail control) short-range infra-red air-to-air missile is now operational on the South African Air Force’s (SAAF) Saab Gripen D advanced light fighter fleet.

The SAAF has chosen the missile as an interim weapon until development of the South African designed and built Denel A-Darter is complete. The missile was picked as it had already been integrated onto the Gripen for the Swedish Air Force and its adoption would not entail further cost for SA. Part of the cost of the A-Darter to taxpayers will be its integration onto the Swedish fighter.

The missile was displayed to the public n a SAAF Gripen for the first time at the Africa Aerospace and Defence show in Cape Town in September 2008 (on aircraft 03). On Friday, it was the turn of aircraft 07 to show the weapon to the public and the media as part of the celebration of the SAAF’s 90th birthday at Swartkop airfield on Friday.

The SAAF ordered the SRAAM in May 2008.

Air Force chief Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano says “this missile is the state-of-the-art high kill probability short range air missile with unrivalled performance capabilities which, when coupled to a helmet mounted display can engage air threats in the rear quarter of the aircraft as is the case with the SAAF Gripens”.

The integrated helmet-mounted display (IHMD) referred to by Gagiano is the Cobra, produced by the local operation of Carl Zeiss Optronics, a joint venture between the German firm and Denel, the state arsenal.