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Arsenal upgrades Molniya R-60 missile

Ukrainian guided-weapons specialist Arsenal has unveiled an upgraded seeker for the Russian Molniya R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) infra-red (IR) short-range air-to-air missile, giving it the capability to engage frontal targets.

Previous variants of the R-60 did not have an all-aspect engagement capability - the early models were restricted to rear-hemisphere-only engagements.

Although the 1970s-vintage R-60 has been superseded by the Vympel R-73 (AA-11 Archer) and the Aphid is no longer in production, the missile has been widely exported.

Arsenal is offering the seeker, the UA-96, as a straight upgrade for in-service weapons.

The Arsenal seeker modification replaces gas-cooling of the missile seeker with what is effectively an air-cooled approach. The seeker differs visibly in having four small air-intakes behind the infra-red window, with the front section wasted. Presumably the circulated air is bled from it.

The improved seeker cooling gives an increased detection capability, providing for head-on closing engagements. Arsenal claims a 10km (5.4nm) maximum engagement capability in the forward hemisphere.

In a head-on closing engagement target, IR signatures are considerably lower than those from the rear.

It is not known whether the UA-96 modification for the R-60 has been deployed on operational Ukrainian or Russian aircraft.

While the R-60 is no longer a front-line weapon in the Russian fighter community (being replaced by the R-73) it remains in widespread use as a strike-aircraft self-defence weapon.

Providing Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot units with a head-on-engagement capability would considerably enhance the aircrew's self-defence capability.