A joint South African and Brazilian development of the 5th generation A-Darter infrared short-range air-to-air missile (AAM) is in trouble, as the latter may be pulling out of the project. Despite development work already being done on the missile, only South Africa has put in a production order, with Brazil citing financial troubles to be able to further integrate the missile on the JAS 39 Gripen E fighter. South Africa has signed commitments to order the missile for the next five years, while Brazil is looking at existing missiles that are cleared for carriage on the latest variant of the JAS 39.
A-Darter infrared short-range air-to-air missile (AAM)
A-Darter, also known as V3E Agile Darter, is a fifth-generation short range, air-to-air missile (SRAAM) developed in South Africa. The AAM is designed to meet the challenges which may come from conflict against future air combat fighters.
The missile system completed several successful test launches in January 2012. It entered the final qualification phase in March 2012 and is expected to be ready for production by 2013.
The missile will enter service with the South African Air Force (SAAF) and Brazilian Air Force (FAB) in 2014.
The SAAF is planning to equip the missile on its 26 Saab Gripen fighter jets and 24 Hawk Mk120 fleet. The FAB is expected to integrate it on Northrop’s F-5E/F Tiger II, F-5A/B Freedom Fighter and future F-X2 fighters.
High explosive (HE) warhead and systems of the A-Darter SRAAM
The A-Darter is 2.98m (9.78ft) long and 0.16m (0.52ft) in diameter. It has four fixed delta control fins at the rear and two strakes along the sides. The missile weighs 90kg.
It carries a high explosive (HE) warhead and has a range of ten kilometres. It is powered by a solid propulsion system. The missile has a track rate of 120°/s and a seeker angle of 180° for countermeasure resistance. It also features lock-on after launch and memory tracking for higher range intercepts, and is compatible with Sidewinder stations.
The tail-controlled AAM is powered by a boost-sustain rocket motor and uses thrust vector flight control. Its wingless airframe and low drag enable the A-Darter to have a higher range than the traditional SRAAMs. The missile system is designed with a highly agile airframe for close combat in electronic countermeasures (ECM) environments.
It is guided by two-colour thermal imaging infrared homing with laser fuse. It features a multimode electronic counter countermeasures (ECCM) suite for higher view angles.
The SiIMU02, an inertial measurement unit (IMU) from Atlantic Inertial Systems (formerly BAE Systems), provides the mid-course guidance for the missile. Solid-state technology of the IMU provides accurate measurement of angular rate and acceleration range of up to ±9,000°/s, ±500°/s and ±500°/s in R, P and Y-axes respectively. It has a linear acceleration range of up to ±30g.
When integrated, the missile can interface with the aircraft using LAU-7 type launcher mechanical rails and MIL-STD-1760 / 1553 avionics bus system. It can be designated to a target using autonomous scan feature of the missile, helmet sight or aircraft’s radar. @airforce-technology.com
SiIMU02, an inertial measurement unit (IMU)
SiIMU02 is a miniature hermetically sealed and fully screened IMU module offering an angular rate measurement range of up to ±9,000°/s (R-axis) / ±500°/s (P,Y-axes) and a linear acceleration measurement ranges of up to ±30g, with a range of optional digital interfaces.
Uses the renowned VSG-3 MEMS angular rate sensors combined with high performance MEMS accelerometers in a modular configuration allowing either angular rate only or full rate and acceleration measurement. The gyros are controlled using digital electronics enabling them to be factory programmed to operate in ‘rate’ or ‘angle’ modes to optimize performance for the application.
Designed to survive up to 20,000g shock SiIMU02 is the world’s most rugged inertial measurement unit.
The IMU has a sealed metal housing, affording a high degree of environmental protection and electrical screening to give a high MTBF and long life in harsh operating conditions.
Using sophisticated internal compensation SiIMU02 achieves excellent bias repeatability, bias stability and angular random walk performance for precision applications in stabilisation, guidance and navigation.
SiIMU02 was developed, and is manufactured and distributed by, Silicon Sensing’s co-parent company Atlantic Inertial Systems in the UK. @findmems.com