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Dutch begin IRIS-T F-16 trials

The Royal Netherlands Air Force has begun evaluation flight-testing an IRIS-T short-range high-agility air-to-air missile (AAM) seeker coupled with a helmet-mounted sight.

The tests are part of an air force evaluation programme intended to lead to the procurement of a replacement for its AIM-9 Sidewinder dogfight AAMs as well as the purchase of a helmet-mounted sighting system for its Lockheed Martin F-16s.

Bodenseewerk Gerätetechnik (BGT) has lent the Dutch air force an infra-red-imaging seeker from the multi-national IRIS-T missile project, which it leads, to use in helmet-mounted sight tests for its updated F-16A/Bs.

The Dutch air force has been carrying out evaluations of various helmet-mounted sights for possible future procurement, at the same time as it is looking for a Sidewinder replacement.

As well as the IRIS-T, the Hughes AIM-9X and the Matra BAe Dynamics Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) are also expected to be considered as candidate weapons for the upgrade.

The Dutch air force had also asked Matra BAe if it could borrow an ASRAAM seeker, but none was available.

Lockheed Martin has adapted the software aboard the F-16 to integrate the IRIS seeker, which BGT says demonstrates the planned international IRIS-T infra-red-homing missile's suitability for this aircraft type.

IRIS-T programme leader BGT says it has had "more than one signal "that the Netherlands may be interested in buying the IRIS-T, for which the seeker has been developed. It built three IRIS-T guidance sections during the now-complete missile definition phase. One of these has now been sent to the Netherlands.

BGT says that it is expecting a German parliamentary go-ahead in November for the missile definition phase, after which the development memorandum of understanding should be signed by the end of the month. The company says that the other nine partner countries should also give the parliamentary green light to development at about the same time as Germany does.

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