Rafael gets to work on next-generation air-to-air missile

Tel Aviv
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Rafael has for the first time confirmed on record that it is developing a new air-to-air missile.

Roni Potasman, Rafael's executive vice-president for research and development, told Flightglobal that while air forces in Arab countries have lost much of their potential in recent years, the situation may change. "Therefore, we continue to develop advanced air-to-air missiles," he says.

The Python-5, which is operational in the Israeli air force and other air forces, is considered one of the most advanced and agile "fifth-generation" air-to-air weapons. Sources say that based on experience, Rafael is now working on a "very advanced, very surprising missile that will surpass any other air-to-air missile in the world".

So far, the Israeli company confirms only that is developing the "building blocks" for a so-called "sixth-generation" missile. The Stunner round and its dual-sensor detection suite developed for the nation's new David's Sling/Magic Wand rocket interceptor system will provide the basis for any such weapon, along with its so-called "dolphin head" nose section, sources say. The current missile is 4.6m (15ft) long.

The Israeli air force will begin fielding the conventional take-off and landing Lockheed Martin F-35A in 2017, with the combat aircraft to be armed with a variety of advanced air-to-air missiles.