Test pod assisting Denel’s missile programmes


Denel Dynamics is successfully using an aircraft-mounted testing pod to cost effectively and quickly develop its missiles, including the A-Darter and Marlin.

Denel’s Jaco Botha, speaking at a recent South African Radar Interest Group (SARIG) conference, said that one of the greatest benefits of the pod is that it saves the enormous expense of having to integrate a missile onto an aircraft. The pod is also able to function as a flying laboratory, and can measure and record data.

The pod was initially used to test the A-Darter fifth-generation infrared guided missile, which will have been delivered to the South African Air Force by 2020, and was integrated onto the Gripen in association with Saab. It is now being used to test the radar sensor used by Denel Dynamics’ Marlin technology demonstrator.

Botha said the pod includes a controller, power supply, telemetry downlink and uplink receiver, radios to communicate to the aircraft, and recording systems. It can test things like infrared and radar seekers, optical equipment and electronic warfare systems. Sensors can be either forward or backwards looking.

For Marlin testing, the pod’s sensor will acquire and track targets at low and high altitudes, such as Hawk and PC-12 aircraft. The pod will also evaluate radar clutter, vibration, electromagnetic interference etc.

Botha said that without the pod, Denel Dynamics would have had to integrate the missile only in final configuration onto the Gripen, which would be an expensive and time-consuming process. Now, elements of the missile can be tested and refined as needed. “We’ve skipped that whole process by going to the pod – you are on the wing of an aircraft and can evaluate in a real environment,” Botha said. This saves two years and the costs of integrating the missile onto the Gripen.

At the moment the pod is only integrated onto the Gripen, but has been used on the Cheetah fighter before.

Denel Dynamics in July 2016 test launched the 100 km range Marlin using a largely complete missile at the Denel Overberg Test Range and is currently preparing for a guided flight test that will use the radar seeker to shoot down a target drone.

The Marlin is a technology demonstrator being developed for Armscor and the Department of Defence. It may be developed into a surface-to-air version and used by the SAAF, which at the moment has no beyond-visual-range missile. Marlin will have an estimated top speed of Mach 4.