ISRAELI MISSILE manufacturer Rafael has released the first picture of its previously classified Python 4 infra-red guided air-to-air missile, revealing a weapon optimised for high manoeuvrability.

The image shows a missile with two sets of fins to the rear of the seeker, coupled with a highly swept set of rear wings.

Absent, however, are the thin rear-body wings previously associated with the design, as are the ailerons on the nose section.

The Rafael picture is thought to show the "export" version of the weapon.

The thin wings may primarily have a structural, rather than an aerodynamic function, in that they add strength to the rear fuselage, allowing the missile to pull extremely high g-turns.

The missile, which weighs 106kg, can be carried on the wing-tip station of the Lockheed F-16C/D; although it is unlikely that it can be carried on the wing-tip rail of the earlier F-16A/B.

The Python 4 has a high off-bore sight capability, and is likely to be position, rather than roll stabilised, to optimise its manoeuvrability.

The missile is thought to have entered service with the Israeli air force in 1992. It is used in conjunction with a helmet-mounted site, and has a maximum engagement range of 15km (8nm).

Rafael is expected to show the weapon at June's Paris air show.

Source: Flight International