Denel offers Pakistan missile deal

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Denel of South Africa is offering Pakistan a package of air-to-air weaponry for its planned Chengdu Super 7 fighter being jointly developed with China. It includes a proposed joint development of a datalink-equipped radar-guided beyond visual range (BVR) missile.

The Pakistan air force confirms it is evaluating a range of active-guided BVR missiles, including the newly proposed T-Darter development by Denel's Kentron. The air force's Super 7 chief project director, Air Vice Marshal Hamid Khawaja, describes the South African missile as "very impressive on paper".

T-Darter is understood to be a further development of Kentron's radar-equipped R-Darter now in low-rate production and Ramjet-powered S-Darter or LRAAM. The new proposed air-breathing missile would incorporate a datalink for mid-course guidance updates and effective target engagements at ranges in excess of 50km (27nm).

The South African company acknowledges "Kentron has been discussing various proposals for air-to-air missiles with the Pakistan air force. These proposals include the U-Darter and derivatives of the Darter family, such as the fifth generation A-Darter missile, as well as the ramjet technology developed by Denel's Sochem division."

Pakistan is keen to acquire a BVR capability to counter the Indian air force's likely acquisition of the Vympel AA-12 (R-77) to arm its new Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters and upgraded MiG-29 and MiG-21bis. India also has its indigenous Astra programme.

"They (India) have the advantage," claims Pakistan's chief of air staff Air Chief Marshal Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi, "-the Su-30s will definitely come with the AA-12 and they also plan to upgrade their other air defence aircraft. We're looking at various BVRs, be it the French (Matra-BAe) Mica, the Russian AA-12 and there are others like South Africa. "We would also like to develop something ourselves in collaboration with others," says Qureshi.