Germany has given the all-clear for the start of development of the planned IRIS-T infra-red guided air-to-air missile, intended to succeed the AIM-9Li Sidewinder as the standard German air force short-range missile for the Eurofighter EF 2000.

The German Federal Ministry of Defence (FMoD) now expects similar political decisions from the other five partner countries in the programme by the beginning of next year. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering development will be signed by Germany "within a couple of weeks", say sources close to the programme, with signatures from the other parties to follow.

Germany leads the programme, worth more than DM500 million ($294 million), with a 46% stake, in partnership with Italy (20%), Sweden (18%), Greece (8%), Canada (4%) and Norway (3%). Signs of interest in the programme have also come from the Netherlands, where the Dutch air force has tested a German-supplied IRIS infra-red imaging seeker with various helmet-mounted sights on its upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16 A/Bs.

The programme-definition phase has now been completed by German manufacturer BGT and the development phase is expected to begin at the start of 1998.

The IRIS-T is a dogfight missile designed for high manoeuvrability, with large wings along the mid-section for high angles of attack, and thrust-vectoring tabs mounted at the exhaust nozzle. The IRIS imaging seeker is designed for high resistance to countermeasures, and can look up to 90¹ off-boresight.

The missile is also designed for Sidewinder interoperability. It has the same dimensions as those of the older missile and can be launched from the same rails, with analogue and digital interfaces with the launch platform. The FMoD says that the German air force delivery of its first IRIS-Ts in is due 2003.

Source: Flight International