According to Helmoed-Römer Heitman, Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent, Denel Dynamics is close to completing the development of its new A-Darter – Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (SRAAM). The missile is in the final stage of air-launched guided evaluation firing trials, which have seen two missiles being launched from a Saab JAS-39 Gripen at the end of 2014 against Skua high-speed targets to confirm the guidance, control, and free-flight seeker performance, including a lock-on-after-launch engagement. These firings demonstrated a high-G performance even greater than required by the specification, the company said.
Two further missile firings are planned for the first part of this year to complete the testing process. The next phase of the development programme will be formal qualification, which will be concluded with a series of guided firings involving both the South African and Brazilian air forces to confirm performance acceptance.
Meanwhile, Denel is getting ready to industrialise the A-Darter and is negotiating a production contract for the South African Air Force (SAAF) with the country’s arms procurement agency, Armscor. Denel hopes to receive the contract during the first quarter of this year.
Denel is also in discussions with Brazil – which partnered with Denel Dynamics in the A-Darter development – to begin industrialisation in that country. Brazil’s decision to acquire the Gripen E/F as its future fighter will, to some extent, simplify its A-Darter integration as the SAAF has already gone through this process with its older Gripens. Denel is also beginning work with BAE Systems on integrating the A-Darter with the SAAF’s Hawk Mk 120 aircraft.
The A-Darter is a modern «body-lift» missile with thrust-vector control that gives it a very high angle of attack. It uses a multi-element imaging infrared seeker with a 180° field of view, and digital processing based on the latest available hardware and software. Its rocket motor has a low launch signature, making it harder to detect by countermeasures systems.
A-Darter is a leading wingtip fifth-generation Imaging Infrared (IIR) SRAAM air-to-air missile system. It has a lock-on after launch and memory tracking with the latest processing capabilities. The A-Darter may be designated to a target by using the aircraft’s radar, a helmet sight or the missile’s very effective autonomous scan feature if radar silence is required. The seeker’s large look-angles and the airframe’s agility enable high off-bore sight helmet-designated firings. Long-range intercepts beyond IR detection range are also possible with the lock-on after launch capability of the A-Darter.
The missile can be integrated on the latest and older generation aircraft platforms. It has already been integrated on the JAS-23 Gripen and integration on the Hawk Mk 120 is under way.
- A-Darter is a leading wingtip mounted fifth-generation Imaging Infrared (IIR) SRAAM that will enhance air platform’s lethality.
- Designed by Denel Dynamics (co-funded by Brazil), utilising its 50 years of air-to-air missile experience.
- High agility (thrust vector controlled) to handle the closest of close combats.
- A two-colour thermal imaging seeker with high sensitivity and a multi-mode ECCM (Electronic Counter-CounterMeasures) suite.
- Advanced digital processing capability ensures improved performance in terms of image detection, false target rejection, ECCM, guidance and control.
Principle of Operation
The A-Darter may be designated to a target by using the aircraft’s radar, a helmet sight or the missile’s very effective autonomous scan feature if radar silence is required. The seeker’s large look-angles and the airframe’s agility enable high off-boresight helmet-designated firings. Long-range intercepts beyond IR detection range are also possible with the lock-on after launch capability of the A-Darter.
Length: 9.77 feet/2,98 m
Diameter: 6.53 in/166 mm
Mass: 205 lbs/93 kg