A signficant milestone has been reached in the development of the fifth-generation A-Darter infrared (IR) homing air-to-air missile (AAM), which is being jointly developed by South Africa and Brazil.
Denel Dynamics, part of the South African State-owned Denel defence industrial group, has revealed that the AAM's first series of programmed flight tests had been successfully completed last week.
These tests were carried out at Denel's OTB test range, on the country's south coast, near Bredasdorp in the Western Cape.
They served to check the A-Darter's manoeuvrability and its characteristics under high g-forces.
In parallel, tests were also executed on the seeker head of the AAM, to evaluate its ability to track targets.
Both sets of tests were highly successful.
"The flight tests were a successful first in the series to prove the specifications and simulation models," states Denel Dynamics CEO Jan Wessels, "which bodes well for the missile's eventual integration on the South African Air Force's Gripen fighter jets, the Brazilian Air Force's F-5M aircraft, as well as the latter's possible FX programme for a future front-line fighter."
The A-Darter is designed to be a highly agile (hence the A prefix in its name) missile, able to manoeuvre at very high G-forces.
Its imaging IR seeker is designed to have very high angles of view - some 90° off boresight.
With a mass of under 100 kg, the AAM is powered by a boost-sustain rocket motor, with thrust vector flight control.
It is being developed by an integrated South African-Brazilian team, with South African defence acquisition, disposals, and research and development agency Armscor providing management for the programme.
The key technologies for the A-Darter were established by 2006, and full-scale development has been under way since 2007.