The Rafael Armament Development Authority has evaluated the Israeli air force's requirement for a future class of smaller and lighter air-to-air missiles suitable for carriage by aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and has decided to invest in the development of a new sixth-generation weapon.

Work on the notional Python 6 is at an early stage. "We are talking about a missile that will be operational in 10 years," says Dr Eitan Yudelevich, Rafael's vice-president marketing, who confirms that the missile is in development.

The Israeli air force has already indicated its requirement for a weapon with a dual-mode seeker, to enable it to use both active radar and passive infrared guidance. The missile will require a high level of targeting accuracy, as its reduced size will also require a trade-off in warhead size.

Yudelevich confirms that Rafael's future air-to-air weapons will be compatible with mobile surface-to-air missile systems, such as the Spyder point-defence concept, which uses a mix of vehicle-mounted Python 5 and Derby missiles with an Elta Electronics search radar (Flight International, 13-19 January). "Dual use is becoming a trend, and we will have that in mind in any future air-to-air missile programme," he says.

Unveiled last June, the in-service Python 5 is equipped with an imaging infrared seeker and has a claimed 360¼ engagement capability against airborne threats.

Source: Flight International