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Denel Dynamics completes A-Darter integration on Gripen

Date: 7 June 2011

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Helmoed-Römer Heitman

Denel Dynamics, the missile and UAV division of South Africa's Denel, has completed the integration of the A-Darter fifth-generation air-to-air missile with the Saab JAS39 Gripen after a series of six launches.

SAAF fighter pilots involved with the project, or with insight into the development, are impressed by the A-Darter and regard it as better in some respects than the IRIS-T and the other missiles in this class. Where it was once speculated that the SAAF might use the A-Darter only on the Hawk, the intention now seems to be to also arm the Gripen with the missile, but retaining the IRIS-T in order to give a dual capability. Since the two missiles have different profiles and features, this will confuse the tactical situation as seen by an opposing pilot,

Specific aspects of the A-Darter mentioned to by SAAF pilots include the absence, under favourable atmospheric conditions, of the tell-tale (aluminium oxide particle based) smoke trail (no aluminium is used in the rocket propellant), giving opposing fighter pilots no visual warning other than a very discrete launch flash.

These features, along with a considerable range advantage over most short-range air-to-air missiles (A-Darter is considered a near-BVR missile) make A-Darter a major threat for opposing pilots.

Other aspects drawing favourable comment include, a 90-degree look angle; the availability of cocpit-selectable seeker scan patterns; quick target acquisition, which "rarely needs a second scan cycle", was told; after-launch scanning for lock-on-after-launch engagements, which is particularly valuable in "over the shoulder" engagements; and the 120-degrees per second track rate.

 Source; Jane's Missiles and Rockets


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