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Rafael tempts Australia

Douglas Barrie/LONDON

Israel's national armaments agency, Rafael, is offering the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) an imaging infra-red (IIR) variant of its Python 4 short-range dogfight missile, alongside its baseline bid of a basic IR variant.

The IIR seeker for the weapon, possibly known as the Python 4 Mk III or Python 5, is under development. Rafael is believed to have demonstrated an IIR seeker to RAAF procurement officials.

The RAAF is holding a competition to procure a replacement for its AIM-9 Sidewinder, under which Rafael is competing with the Matra BAe Dynamics Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and the Hughes AIM-9X. The RAAF hopes to make a choice around the turn of the year.

The ASRAAM and the AIM-9X use Hughes IIR seekers, putting the basic Python 4, with a mature IR seeker, at a disadvantage.

The Rafael IIR development is already being part-funded by the Israeli defence ministry, say sources. Rafael has previously looked at modifying the front-end of the Python 4, using the Hughes AMOS IR/visible light day-only seeker. This project was also associated with the Python 5.

As well as modifying the seeker, Rafael is known to be working on reducing the weight of the missile without compromising its engagement and agility envelope.

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