Diehl Defence has released new details about its developmental IRIS-T SLX air-defence system, which in addition to taking down incoming air-launched weapons will also be able to target their carrier aircraft.

Speaking at the ILA Berlin air show on 6 June, chief programme officer Harald Buschek said the future SLX system will be able to engage threats out to a range of up to 27nm (50km), with the interceptor having an altitude coverage of 30km.

“This will be the next baby, to take down the platforms carrying standoff weapons,” he says, with the system likely to be ready for operation within around four years. It also will retain the ability to engage cruise missiles and helicopters.


Source: Craig Hoyle/FlightGlobal

Surface-launched IRIS-T SLX interceptor will be able to engage threat aircraft carrying standoff-range weapons

The German company currently produces two versions of the vertically-launched air-defence weapon: the SLM and SLS. Each system includes a truck-mounted radar, three launch vehicles – each with eight missiles, and able to be dispersed by more than 10nm – and a tactical operations centre.

A so-called ‘shoot and scoot’ operating model means a launcher can be set up within less than 15min, before rapidly relocating immediately after firing.

Diehl reveals that ground-launched IRIS-T weapons have successfully engaged more than 240 incoming threats in Ukraine, including cruise missiles.

“The experience from Ukraine gives us the confidence that the set-up we have right now – with a very good ground radar together with the imaging infrared seeker in the missile – is the best possible combination,” Buschek says. Additionally, no launch units have been destroyed during operations to date, he notes.

Facing this high volume of operational usage, the company is in the middle of a three-year programme of dramatically ramping up annual output.

Meanwhile, chief executive Helmut Rauch says output of the IRIS-T’s air-launched variant has also increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Air-to-air, the quantities are not increasing as rapidly as ground-to-air, but the rate is being increased,” he confirms.

Diehl Defence’s current work also involves activities on a Block 2 version of the air-launched missile, which will benefit from a new seeker, replacement electronics and a datalink capability.