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Python V development is under way at Rafael

Douglas Barrie/LONDON

ISRAELI MISSILE manufacturer Rafael is developing a next-generation imaging infra-red (IIR) air-to-air missile (AAM) programme, dubbed the Python V. Details of the project have been revealed in documentation obtained by Flight International.

Rafael has held discussions with US missile manufacturer Hughes over the Python V. The Israeli company had sought to use the Hughes Amos multi-mission seeker for the weapon - a fact acknowledged in the US-originated documentation.

Rafael and Hughes decline to comment.

The Amos seeker was originally intended for the AIM-9R improved Sidewinder, but that project was cancelled. The Amos seeker, which Rafael had considered in late 1993, was based on a 128 x 128-element focal-plane array, with three-colour discrimination.

The Israelis' fourth-generation AAM, the Python IV, is already in service with the Israeli air force and is being offered for export to selected countries. The Python IV uses a two-colour IR seeker.

According to Israeli sources, the Hughes collaboration did not come to fruition. What is uncertain is whether Rafael opted instead for a "home-grown" IIR seeker for the Python V, or whether it turned to an alternative foreign supplier.

There is no information available on the aerodynamic configuration of the Python V. Rafael's Python IV is believed to be a position-stabilised missile, rather than roll-stabilised, optimised for close-in engagements.