McDONNELL DOUGLAS (MDC) is to test-fire a high off-boresight air-to-air missile, believed to be the Israeli Rafael Python 4, from an F-18 later this year under a company-funded programme designed to demonstrate an off-boresight engagement capability.

The test will take place at the China Lake weapons range. An Elbit Dash helmet-mounted sight will be used to designate an off-boresight target for the missile, which has been designated the Spark by MDC.

Lockheed Martin has already conducted a similar test with the rival F-16, firing Raytheon's Box Office II high- off boresight technology-demonstrator missile.

A high off-boresight missile capability is one of several F-18 upgrades MDC is pursuing for international customers. Other include recertifying the 7.5G airframe for 9G manoeuvres, increasing internal fuel capacity, clearing the carriage of larger, 2,300litre external tanks, and increasing the number of chaff and flare expendables carried.

Australia is considering the Python 4 to meet its requirement for a replacement for the AIM-9 Sidewinder infra-red guided missile. The missile is also being offered to Romania. Another potential customer in the Pacific Rim could be Thailand, which has also recently ordered the F-18.

The Python 4 entered service with the Israeli air force around 1993. The infra-red guided dogfight missile is carried on its MDC F-15 and Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter aircraft.

German missile manufacturer BGT has successfully carried out a test-launch engagement using its IRIS-T imaging infra-red seeker. The seeker was tested against a closing target from a high off-bore sight position. The seeker forms the core of a multi-national programme to develop a replacement for the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

Source: Flight International