As a result of the success of the current A-Darter programme, it is possible that the Brazilian Air Force will undertake further joint development projects with South Africa. However, although some preliminary discussions have taken place, no formal negotia- tions have started and no decisions have been made. Importantly, however, the agreement signed between the South African Department of Defence and the Brazilian Ministry of Defence in 2003 provided for the development of mutually beneficial defence projects, and not just for the A-Darter programme.
“The partnership is outstanding. The relation- ship we have with South Africa is a benchmark for Brazil, for the air force, and for Brazilian companies,” affirms Brazilian Air Force A-Darter project manager in South Africa Colonel Valter Malta. “We’ve worked with many countries and companies and we particularly like working with South Africa. The opportunity to work on the development of a latest generation missile is a highlight as well.”
The A-Darter is a fifth-generation infrared (IR) homing air to air missile (AAM), being jointly developed by South Africa and Brazil under the leadership of Denel Dynamics, which is the missiles and unmanned air vehicles business of the State-owned Denel defence industrial group. Although classified as short-range, it has a longer range than most missiles in its category.
In addition to the air force, the Brazilian partners in the programme are missile company Mectron (developer of the MAA-1 and MAA-1B Piranha IR-homing AAMs, the MAR-1 anti- radar missile and the MSS-1.2 anti-armour missile), Avibrás (best known for its surface to surface bombardment rockets) and optronics and electronics company Opto Eletrônica.
There are 25 Brazilians working on the A-Darter in South Africa, of which 14 are air force personnel (from the Aerospace Science and Technology Department) and 11 from the three companies, but hundreds more are directly and indirectly working on the programme in Brazil.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in developing the A-Darter,” reports Malta. “It’s a successful project for both countries.” The start of production of the new missile is foreseen for 2014 or 2015, and, since the beginning of the project, it has been the intent to have two production lines, one in each country.
In South Africa, the A-Darter has already been integrated on to the South African Air Force’s Saab Gripen fighters and is also being integrated on to its BAE Systems Hawk fighter-trainers. Integration of the missile on Brazilian Air Force fighters will take place in Brazil, with the support of Denel Dynamics, which is the design authority.
The programme is reviewed by regular bilateral contractual meetings which take place twice a year, alternating between South Africa and Brazil. The most recent meeting, in September, was in South Africa. These meetings are attended by both technical personnel and logistics personnel from both countries.
The Brazilian delegation comes from the air force agency that manages the programme on behalf of the South American country, the Combat Aircraft Programme Coordinating Commission (abbreviated to Copac in Portuguese), and is normally headed by the head of the commission. However, the dele- gation to the latest meeting was headed by the number two man in the Brazilian Air Force, the chief of the Air General Staff, Air Lieutenant Brigadier (equivalent to General in South Africa) Aprígio Eduardo de Moura Azevedo.
He was head of Copac when the A-Darter joint development project had been established and he had signed the programme agreement on behalf of the Brazilian Air Force. His presence was an expression of his continuing interest in the programme.