The A-Darter 5th generation air-to-air missile developed by an integrated South African-Brazilian team achieved an important milestone last week. The first series of programmed flight tests at Denel’s OTB test range successfully evaluated the missile’s maneuverability and high G-force characteristics, whilst parallel tests of its seeker head’s ability to track targets were equally successful.
Both Brazil’s and South Africa’s governments are jointly funding the development of the A-Darter. Designed as an agile missile (hence the designation “A” in the name), the A-Darter’s key technologies had been established by 2006. Full-scale development has been ongoing since 2007.
The critical milestone achieved last week is a step in the process to prove the missile’s performance specification towards completion of the development programme. “The flight tests were a successful first in the series to prove the specifications and simulation models, which bodes well for the missile’s eventual integration on the South African Air Force’s Gripen fighter jets, the Brazilian Air Force’s F5M aircraft, as well as the latter’s possible FX programme for a future frontline fighter,” said Jan Wessels, CEO of Denel Dynamics.
The A-Darter was designed as an imaging infrared air-to-air self-defence missile with a mass of less than 100kg. Using a boost-sustain rocket motor and with thrust vector control it is able to execute extremely high G-force maneuvers. A joint project team consisting of members of the South African and Brazilian air forces, as well as Armscor manages the programme.
As a self-contained business entity of South Africa’s state-owned Denel Group, Denel Dynamics is dedicated to the domains of missiles, guided weapons and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
Focusing on markets in Europe, South America, Middle East, Africa and Asia, it had significant export success with its Ingwe anti-armour and the Umkhonto air defence missiles, as well as its acclaimed Seeker UAV and Skua high-speed target drone.
In recent years Denel Dynamics had follow-up orders for its proven Seeker UAV system from a foreign customer, whilst continuing development and improvement of several products with a view to remain at the forefront of its respective markets. These include the upgraded Seeker-400 UAV (with endurance of up to 18 hours) as a complementary system to the Seeker II. Denel Dynamics is also progressing with the development of its Bateleur MALE (medium altitude long endurance) UAV.