Paul Lewis/RIO DE JANEIRO
Denel plans soon to begin guided testing of the Kentron A-Darter air-to-air missile (AAM), while pursuing derivative naval and AAM developments of its SAHV-3 surface-to-air missile system.
The South African manufacturer is pushing ahead with work on the A-Darter, with the help of technology funding in the absence of a full-scale development budget. It has completed two years of test firing to validate the missile's propulsion and ballistics.
Denel hopes to widen testing by the end of the year to include a new, indigenously developed, imaging infrared seeker. Also under local development is a helmet-mounted sight for off-boresight missile cueing. The missile is being promoted as an alternative to the Matra British Aerospace Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile.
The company, speaking at a recent defence show in Brazil, says that the A-Darter seeker could also be adapted as a future enhancement to the new, vertically launched, Umkhonto missile under development for the South African navy's planned four Meko 100-class corvettes. The 12km (7 mile)-range missile under test is fitted with a simpler infrared seeker than that of the earlier U-Darter AAM, to keep costs down, according to Denel.
Initial and mid-course guidance is provided by the ship until the infrared seeker can lock on in the terminal phase. The Umkhonto draws much of its design from the land launched SAHV-3 system, including a 180mm-diameter body, servo-powered tail control and thrust vectoring vanes in the motor nozzle for launch control.
It is understood that the SAHV 3 also forms the basis of South Africa's T-Darter beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile proposal to Pakistan for its planned Super 7 fighter, rather than the R-Darter as earlier reported.
The missile, which is still at the concept stage, would incorporate a tail control, active-radar guided seeker head and datalink for mid-course correction.