South Africa's Kentron is continuing to work on both the U-Darter and what it describes as the A-Darter fifth-generation dogfight air-to-air missile. The U-Darter, an improved variant of the Darter, is now said to be in service with the South African Air Force.

The U-Darter was tested as recently as March at the Overburg range, with two firings - one a war shot - successfully carried out. Both engagements were carried out against a 3g-manoeuvring drone target. In the first shot, the missile physically hit the infra-red (IR) target, while the warhead detonation of the war shot resulted in the drone being destroyed.

The U-Darter, like the existing Darter, uses the Matra Magic airframe, although the rest of the missile is indigenous. It differs from the Darter in having an improved dual-band IR seeker and full cruciform, rather than twist-and-steer, control.

Like the Darter, the U-Darter can be slaved either to a radar or a helmet-mounted sight. The U-Darter seeker has a 56 degrees off-boresight capability. The U-Darter is also understood to be capable of sustaining a considerably higher level of g than can the Darter. The Darter can handle peak loads in the region of 35g, while the U-Darter in recent tests is estimated to have sustained peak loads of up to 55g.

The U-Darter may represent the final iteration of the Magic airframe, with the A-Darter utilising a new airframe design, as well as an imaging IR seeker.


Source: Flight International