Douglas Barrie/LONDON

ISRAEL IS OFFERING India access to an active-radar beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM) as part of an upgrade being proposed for the Indian navy's British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS51s.

The active-radar-guided missile is being developed by Rafael, although the company refuses to acknowledge publicly the existence of any such programme.

India has looked at the active variant of the French Matra Mica AAM and the Russian Vympel R-77 (AA-12 Adder) for the FRS51. The R-77, however, was considered to be to heavy, while the Mica, say sources close to the project, was considered too expensive.

The Indian navy is hoping to fit its FRS51s with a multi-mode pulse-Doppler radar, and had looked initially to BAe to provide an upgrade to the Royal Navy's Sea Harrier F/A2 standard.

India, however, was unable to afford this, and looked instead at less expensive options - although, in the wake of the Indian election, it remains to be seen whether any funding will be made available.

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) approached BAe with the aim of collaborating in offering an "affordable" package. Whether a collaborative bid emerges has yet to be determined.

BAe had been offering the F/A2's GEC-Marconi Blue Vixen pulse-Doppler radar, while IAI was proposing a variant of the Elta EL/M 2032 multi-mode radar. Rafael's BVR weapon has already been integrated with this radar.

A variant of this radar could eventually be retrofitted to the Israeli air force Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds, as could the active BVR missile. Another option is to integrate the weapon with the Northrop Grumman APG-68 radar now fitted to the aircraft.

Israel is to receive the Hughes AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-To-Air Missile, but, so far, only for the 25 McDonnell Douglas F-15I (F-15E) strike aircraft on order.

The Rafael BVR missile is also believed to be part of an Israeli collaboration with South Africa to upgrade its Cheetah E fighters. South African missile manufacturer Kentron's R-Darter project is thought to be based on the Rafael programme.

The R-Darter programme has at least reached the flight-trials stage although, beyond confirming its existence, Kentron is reluctant to discuss the missile.

Source: Flight International