With several critical in-flight guided tests concluded in recent weeks, the A-Darter air-to-air missile jointly developed by Denel Dynamics (South African Pavilion, Stand 12-C21) and the Brazilian Air Force is poised for production this year.
According to Denise Wilson, deputy chief executive at Denel Dynamics, integration on the South African Air Force Gripen is complete and in progress on the Hawk LIFT (lead-in fighter trainer). A-Darter will likely also be integrated on the Gripen NG selected by the Brazilian Air Force.
The latest series of inflight trials at the Denel Overberg Test Range two weeks ago involved highg and lock-on-after-launch tests, in which the missile reportedly exceeded expectations and design parameters. Wilson explained that A-Darter was relying on advanced digital processing and its memory tracking capabilities to reacquire the target towards the rear of the aircraft, confirming its ‘over-the-shoulder’ firing capability.
Brazilian sources claimed that A-Darter was 10 times more manoeuvrable than a fighter jet, able to perform manoeuvres up to 100g. The 90kg missile makes use of thrust-vectoring, rather than relying on small forward wings for control.
Last week’s in-flight tests also confirmed A-Darter’s exceptional performance in terms of image detection, false target rejection, electronic counter-countermeasures, and guidance and control, Wilson stated.
“Final qualification is set down for November, with us having reached the critical design review phase,” she said. “Local production (in South Africa) is likely to start soon.” Riaz Saloojee, Denel group chief executive, expects A-Darter to become a global leader when it enters service in the next 18 months.
Following on from the success of the A-Darter project, Brazil and South Africa plan to co-operate on other missile developments that will likely include a 100km beyond-visual- range weapon, part of a project designated Marlin that involves a radar-guided anti-air weapon.
The IDEX Show Daily earlier reported that Marlin is meant to satisfy land, sea and air applications, with its design crafted for surface and air launch. A degree of modularity exists, allowing incorporation of elements of the A-Darter and Umkhonto programme, the latter recently shown with an extended-range capability.