Denel's Kentron Dynamics division and the South African Air Force displayed the R-Darter medium-range, radar-guided air-to-air missile (AAM) for the first time.

Known by the SAAF as the V4, the missile has been in-service for around a year. R-Darter is compatible with the SAAF's Denel Cheetah fighters and will be integrated on to the Saab/BAE Systems Gripen when the fighter enters service in 2006.

Chris Haines, Kentron Dynamics marketing and business development head, says that the company has started to market the missile overseas and already has international partners which cannot be named. One possible partner is Israel, which is believed to have aided development of the missile's active seeker.

Haines suggests that as well as the Dassault Mirage family - the Cheetah is an upgraded Mirage III - the R-Darter could also be integrated with the Northrop F-5, and Lockheed Martin F-16.

Meanwhile, Kentron plans further test firings of its A-Darter short-range infrared (IR) guided AAM later this year, says Haines. The missile is funded as a technology demonstrator, and could become the SAAF's next short-range weapon.

Although the R-Darter was specified as part of the Gripen weapons package, no short-range AAM was defined. Industry sources believe South Africa is likely to release a request for proposals for such a weapon within two years.

Competitors are likely to include the BGT IRIS-T, Matra BAe Dynamics (MBD) ASRAAM, Rafael Python 4 and the Raytheon AIM-9X. The former is being trialled on the Gripen and Sweden is part of the international development team.

Meanwhile, industry sources say MBD is considering the A-Darter's South African-developed imaging IR seeker as an alternative to ASRAAM's Raytheon seeker.

Source: Flight International